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biased language


biased language

Talking About People: A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language by Rosalie Maggio (Greenwood, 1997)


Words and phrases that are considered prejudiced, offensive, and hurtful.

Biased language includes expressions that demean or exclude people because of age, sex, race, ethnicity, social class, or certain physical or mental traits.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Biased language insults the person or group to which it is applied. In denigrating others, biased language creates division and separation. In using biased language about races and ethnic or cultural groups, speakers and writers risk alienating members of those groups, thus undermining the communication and shared understanding language should promote."
    (Robert DiYanni and Pat C. Hoy II, The Scribner Handbook for Writers. Allyn and Bacon, 2001)

  • "At the grossest level, gender-biased language implies that people are male unless 'proven' to be female. Female gender may be designated by either tagging on a feminine descriptor (e.g. lady professor, women doctor, female engineer) or by belonging to a stereotypically female group (e.g., kindergarten teacher, social worker)."
    (Janet B. Ruscher, Prejudiced Communication: A Social Psychological Perspective. Guilford, 2001)

  • "Avoid, if you can, giving gratuitous offence: you risk losing your readers, or at least their goodwill, and therefore your arguments. But pandering to every plea for politically correct terminology may make your prose unreadable, and therefore also unread.

    "So strike a balance. If you judge that a group wishes to be known by a particular term, that the term is widely understood and that using any other term would seem odd, old fashioned or offensive, then use it."
    (The Economist Style Guide, 10th ed. Profile Books, 2010)
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