As a blog reader, do you notice biased or sexist references? Does it offend you if you are female and a post refers to only “he”? How can you avoid biased and sexist words in your own writing?
I saw an online post that made a couple of sexist references. The post was about grammar, and it said to have someone else proofread your copy, and “he” will help find your errors. In another sentence, the article referred to “businessmen, executives and marketing people.”
The problem with these references is that they’re biased and exclusive. In today’s culture, writers need to be sensitive to all groups of people. This especially true for bloggers, whose work may be seen worldwide. You never know who might read your blog.
The first step of the solution is to be sensitive to all of your potential readers. The second step is to think of non-biased ways to write.
The writer I referred to in the first paragraph could have done a couple of things to avoid any biased errors. First, instead of saying “he will help find your errors,” a simple solution is to write: “Have someone else proofread your copy, and he or she will help you find errors.” It’s worth a couple of extra words to include everyone in your audience.
Second, in this writer’s reference to “businessmen, executives and marketing people,” the problem is with businessmen, which is an outdated term. Unless you’re sure a group consists of only male business professionals, a better term is “business people.” The best solution for this writer would be to write: “business executives and marketing people.”
I saw another biased example a few days ago in a blog post about building a mailing list. Near the beginning of the post, I noticed this sentence: “Unfortunately, some bloggers and online businessmen are yet to start building a list.”
I quit reading. I thought: If you’re not going to include my gender in your post, why should I finish reading it? This excluded me because I am a woman, and on my way to becoming an online businesswoman. The blog author may have had useful tips, but I will move on to an author who doesn’t exclude my gender.
In this example, instead of the term “online businessmen,” some solutions are to call all of us online entrepreneurs or professional bloggers.
Male-oriented words are only one form of bias. Other areas to be careful of are racism, ageism, cultural bias, sexual orientation, religious groups and people with disabilities.
Bias can also crop up when it comes to professions that have traditionally been dominated by one gender. A few examples of ways to avoid male- or female-oriented references are to say firefighter instead of fireman, server instead of waiter or waitress, flight attendant instead of stewardess, and postal carrier instead of mailman.
You should avoid biased language in your writing. Biased language raises the possibility that you could offend and alienate your audience. We bloggers need all the readers we can get, and we can’t alienate our audience.
Readers, have you encountered any biases online that have offended you? Do you think twice about avoiding bias in your posts?