There\u2019s an old phrase that says, \u201cSticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.\u201d And this might be true in physical terms, but it ignores the power of biased language. The words we use matter.\r\nWe\u2019ve written before about gendered pronouns in academic writing, but bias can also occur in relation to race, age, sexuality, class, and disability. And while we can\u2019t cover all of these topics in one go, we can offer some guidelines on avoiding biased language in your written work.\r\n1. Insensitive Language\r\nIf you\u2019re writing about an individual or group of people, consider their point of view. A big part of this is using the correct terminology, which means:\r\n\r\n\tUsing the language people use to describe themselves.\r\n\tAvoiding words that could be insulting to the people you\u2019re writing about.\r\n\r\nIn most cases this will be obvious. However, some older books will use old-fashioned terms that are now offensive. It is no longer acceptable, for instance, to refer to a Native American as a \u201cred Indian.\u201d\r\nShould you need to quote a passage with an old-fashioned term that is now considered offensive, check online for guidance. You can always edit the quotation to use a more sensitive term if required.\r\n2. Recognizing Individuality\r\nNot being reductive is key for avoiding biased language. This means recognizing people as complete beings rather than reducing them to a single quality, such as their skin color or sexuality.\r\nThe following, for example, could be seen as reductive:\r\nHistorically, albinos have often been persecuted.\r\nIn this case, the word \u201calbinos\u201d reduces a large group of human beings to a medical condition. A more sensitive way to phrase this sentence would be:\r\nHistorically, people with albinism have often been persecuted.\r\nHere, we\u2019re still talking about a large group of people with a shared quality. But by phrasing it as \u201cpeople with albinism,\u201d we acknowledge their personhood rather than simply reducing them to a genetic disorder.\r\nThis person-first language is therefore a good default, especially if referring to groups in the abstract. However, if referring to a specific person who does not like the "person with" phrasing, use their preferred terminology.\r\nFor instance, while you might say "people with disabilities" when referring to an abstract group, if a specific person refers to themselves as a "disabled person," or they say they prefer this term, you should follow their example.\r\n3. Avoiding Generalizations\r\nTry to avoid generalizations when discussing groups of people. This applies even when the generalization could seem \u201cpositive.\u201d For example:\r\nGermans are always efficient, so they make good managers.\r\nBeing efficient is usually a good thing, so could be seen as positive. But, at the same time, unless you have surveyed everybody from Germany, you can\u2019t know that every German person is \u201cefficient.\u201d\r\nRather, the idea of Teutonic efficiency is a stereotype. And even positive stereotypes are problematic. This is partly because they draw on other negative stereotypes. But it\u2019s also because they make sweeping generalizations, which are reductive and inaccurate. Thus, it is better to avoid generalizations like this altogether, especially in academic work.\r\n4. Have Your Writing Proofread\r\nAs a final bonus tip, may we suggest having your work proofread?\r\nA professional check will help you express your ideas clearly, as well as picking up on old-fashioned or inappropriate vocabulary. And as such, it should help you avoid using biased language in your writing.