68 Objectivity and Bias

Christina Frasier

Learning Objectives

  • Identify biased language
  • Compose objective sentences

Note: In the Critical Thinking and Argument section, there is a chapter called “Framing, Word Choice, and Biases” that delves deeper into bias specifically in argumentation. This section is more general and geared toward expository writing.


Objectivity in writing is important. Leading with your feelings might be appropriate in your personal communication, but in an academic and professional setting, writers should avoid judgmental and emotional language. Consider the following examples:



  • Bad: I disagree with the separation of migrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border because it is not right.

This sentence begins with a personal opinion, which might not be appropriate for what you’re writing. Ask yourself whether or not what you are writing about is a fact.

  • Better: UN officials say that child separation may be prohibited under international law (“UN Rights Chief ‘Appalled,'” 2019, para. 2).

This sentence gives cited evidence and does not refer to personal opinion or an opinion at all.



A writer risks alienating their audience if their work is not objective and uses language intended to exclude people. Approaching your writing with a growth mindset, intellectual openness, and concrete evidence rather than a fixed, preset opinion is the best bet. Here are some elements of biased writing to identify and edit out from your drafts: 

  • Generalizations
  • Lack of evidence
  • Anecdata
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Lack of sensitivity

Generalizations lump everything into a group.


Using all-or-nothing language:

  • Bad: STEM professors do not value writing.
  • Better: Some professors teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) deemphasize the value of writing in the workplace.

Notice that the “better” sentence is longer; expressing nuance takes a little more time!


Writing that lacks evidence could be considered biased, as well. Academic writing certainly has no credibility without evidence, and if you do not secure and maintain the trust of your reader, you risk alienating them.


  • Bad: Twice as many men as women suffer from Central Auditory Processing Disorder.
  • Better: Research shows more men than women suffer from Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) by a 2:1 ratio (Chermak & Musiek, 1997, p. 324; Palfrey & Duff, 2007, p. 152).

The second sentence gives concrete evidence and cites the info.


Sometimes, instead of no evidence, there is too little. “Anecdata,” the data of one person’s experience, is not evidence. Anecdotes are only one person’s account, and the world is not defined by one person’s experiences alone. 


  • Bad: My daughter spends all her free time playing video games, which goes to show that the pandemic spurred many bad habits.
  • Better: Screen time rates for children doubled from March 2020 to May 2020 (Richtel, 2021, para. 11).

The “better” sentence cuts out judgmental and wordy language in addition to eliminating the anecdata.


Self-awareness is important when writing for an audience. Bias can show even in statements you might think are innocuous.


Assumptions about gender

  • Bad: Every lawyer works on refining his arguments before a trial.
  • Better: Lawyers often work on refining their arguments before a trial.

The biased sentence assumes all lawyers are men and makes a sweeping statement about their practices. The second sentence avoids sexist language by using a plural, and the use of “often” gives some wiggle room as to practice.


Sensitivity in writing shows that you accommodate your audience’s differences.  This includes terms for ethnicity and gender.



•Bad: Researchers surveyed Caucasians, blacks, and Asian Americans.

•Better: Researchers surveyed European-, African-, and Asian-Americans.


In the “better” sentence, the terms are parallel.


Sexist language:

•Bad: The administrator and female doctor strategized about reducing complaints.

•Better: The administrator and doctor strategized about reducing complaints.

Pointing out that the doctor was a woman is immaterial; also, using the biological label “male” and “female” is not preferable; use “man” and “woman” instead.



Sensitivity also includes how you write about someone’s socioeconomic status.



Bad: the poor; low-class people; poor people
 Better: people whose incomes fall below the federal poverty threshold

Note that the “bad” phrases are subjective and inexact; the “better” phrase is more objective and specific, even though, yes, it is significantly longer.


Keep sensitivity in mind when writing about legal status, housing status, and government assistance. If your writing is objective, specific, and sensitive, you will be less likely for your audience to dismiss your message.


Also, please remember that bias is different from having an opinion about an issue. You can have an opinion and write about your own and others’ opinions without ever being biased. We, in fact, encourage you to do so!



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From College to Career: A Handbook for Student Writers Copyright © by Christina Frasier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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