Avoiding Bias in Writing
It can be extremely difficult to avoid being biased in writing. Bias is a tendency or inclination for an individual to hold a certain outlook or make certain judgements about any topic, from people to ideas. The news today is full of bias, particularly in regard to political and social issues that are currently relevant. So how can you recognize bias and how do you avoid including it in your own writing? Below are a few tips to help you get started.
Choice of Pronouns
Avoid using first person pronouns such as “I” and “we”. Using such terms can decrease your credibility. When you use the pronoun “I” for example, it may come across as if you are choosing yourself as a perfect representation of everyone else. Similarly, using the pronouns “we” or “our” can also come across as if you are believing that your opinion is shared by everyone else. Instead, utilize third person pronouns such as “teachers” or “students” or even “some people” or “many people” to avoid bias.
Always cite your evidence. When there is evidence to back up your thoughts, they become much more credible. It is no longer simply considered an opinion. When you find evidence of your ideas, they often include more specific facts, such as statistics, rather than over-generalized comments. Which leads us to our next tip…
This can be one of the most irritating things in literature (fiction or non-fiction). Do not assume that because one or two members of a group think a certain way, they are representative of the whole. Rather than saying things such as “Teenagers are addicted to social media,” say something like “Some teenagers are addicted to social media” or even “Many teenagers are addicted to social media.” Always acknowledge that not all members of a group are the same and that, even if a majority are a certain way, that still is not representative of the whole.
Sensitive language can help you to avoid bias. For example, instead of referring to a group of people as “older adults” or “old people,” refer simply to their age range, “75-85” or something similar. This includes being specific about nationality or sexual orientation as well if necessary. As an example, refer to people as “Chinese” rather than the general term “Asian” or refer to people as “lesbian” rather than generally “homosexual.” This goes back to the idea of over-generalization and can help you to appear more credible and educated on the topic.
As a general rule, be aware of your potential biases. Again, this doesn’t necessarily apply only to prejudices regarding race, sexual orientation, or gender. As people, bias is in our nature. Having an opinion about anything is a bias. While writing, pay attention to the wording you use and recognize how your bias may appear on the page. Make adjustments where necessary. A great way to practice recognizing bias in your own writing is to learn to recognize it in other people’s. As you continue to develop this sensitivity, your writing will increase in credibility and will likely be more beneficial to readers.
Avoiding Bias. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2019, from https://writingcenter.ashford.edu/avoiding- bias
ResearchGuides: How to Evaluate Information Sources: Identify Bias. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2019, from https://researchguides.njit.edu/evaluate/bias
Scholarly Voice: Avoiding Bias. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2019, from https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/scholarlyvoice/avoidingbias