Avoid Stereotypes And Offensive Labeling

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Avoid stereotypes and offensive labeling languages. When you’re writing college paper, business document, articles for newspapers or newsletters or communications that will go online, pay special attention to avoiding offensive language. Avoid gender or racial and ethnic stereotyping and don’t express contempt for people who are different from you or disagree with you.

Sexist Language :

To avoid sexist language, keep some guidelines in mind.

Instead of using the male pronouns he and him in general statement, write he or she and him or her. Often you can avoid the problem by using plural nouns or you may switch back and forth between she and he when you’re generalizing.

The astute leader always listens to his men (Avoid this type)

Astute leaders always listen to their followers. (Prefer this type)

Men show their true nature in time of crisis. (Avoid this type)

People shoe their true nature in time of crisis. (Prefer this type)

Policemen, mailmen, chairman or businessmen (Avoid this type)

Police officers, mail carriers, chairperson or Business executives (Prefer this type)

Edit out language that stereotypes certain professions as male or female. Don’t suggest that nurses, librarians or secretaries are usually women or those engineers, physicians and military officers are usually men.

Avoid implying that men and women behave in stereotyped ways. Don’t suggest that most women love to shop, that most men are sloppy or that only men like to hunt and fish.

Using Racial and Ethnic Terms Carefully :

Mention race only if you make an important point by doing so, then keep these guideline in mind:

Use specific and accurate terminology. For Americans whose forebears come from another country, combine descriptive terms with American Japanese American, Cuban American and so on without hyphens. The term Asian is so broad that it’s almost useless. Use Chinese, Japanese Indonesian, Filipino and son on. The term oriental is no longer used to describe specific races. The term Hispanic is also very broad and means something different from Latino. When you can, choose a more specific term: Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, Spanish, and so on.

The term Native American and American Indian are both acceptable for indigenous Americans. For natives of the arctic regions, more specific ethnic names such as Inuit or Aleut are preferred over Eskimo.

As far as you can, use terminology preferred by the people you’re writing about. At this time, the term favored by many whose ancestors came from Africa seems to be African American, but black is still widely used. If you’re in doubt, ask a friend from that group or consult a respected newspaper such as the New York Times or the Christian Science Monitor. A person of color is the choice of some writers.

Be careful not to slip into subtle ethnic or racial stereotypes. Might someone construe something you’ve written to mean that Irish are hot tempered or Italians are connected with crime or Scots are stingy? If so, consider revising to avoid unintended bias. Sometimes it helps to get someone else to read your work to look for such slips.

Avoid unnecessary references to age, physical conditional or sexual orientation. Be careful not to demean people for characteristics over which they have no control.

Use respectful terms for people who are sixty – five or older and recognize that individuals in that category vary as much as those in any other group. Many such individuals do not want to be called elderly or old or even senior citizens. Your best net here is to be specific. Write late sixties or early seventies. Mention someone’s age only if it’s relevant and avoid patronizing comments like
for a seventy – five year – old, he’s re-markedly alert. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t recognize truly unusual accomplishments, as a New York Times article did in reporting on a performance the Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya gave on here seventieth birthday.

Use boys, girls and kids only for people under eighteen. College students and young working adults deserve to be called men and women. The term college kids is both patronizing and highly inaccurate.

When it’s relevant to mention a person’s disability or illness, use specific language and avoid words like crippled or victim. Terms like blind, visually impaired or paraplegic are simply descriptive and are acceptable. A useful formula is to mention the person first and his or her disability second: “My friend Joe who is diabetic" or “Anne’s father who has multiple sclerosis,"

Mention a person’s sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to the topic you’re discussing and use specific, nonjudgmental language when you do. Gay and lesbian now seem to be the terms preferred by those whose sexual orientation is toward their own sex.

Edit out language that suggests negative stereotypes such as redneck, wetback, welfare mother, fraternity boy, country flub set or Junior Leaguer. Be careful, too, with terms that have become code words suggesting racial or social stereotypes: two such terms are underclass and cultural elite.

Other Pages in This Section :

Choose A Good Title.

Write Strong Leads.

Keep Your Writing Tight And Unified.

Keep Your Sentences and Paragraphs to a Reasonable Length.

Chunk Your Writing Into Manageable Units.

Avoid Antagonizing Your Readers.

Make Your Writing Look Good.

Use Figurative And Connotative Language Sparingly.

Maintain A Civil Tone.

Successful Writing Index

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