Biased language

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SOURCE: http://catalog.flatworldknowledge.com/bookhub/5?e=carpenter-ch12_s02

Biased language can offend or stereotype others on the basis of their personal or group affiliation. The figure below provides a list of words that have the potential to be offensive in the left-hand column. The right-hand column provides more neutral words that you can use instead. [12]

Figure 12.12 Avoiding Biased Language

Effective communication is clear, factual, and goal-oriented. It is also respectful. Referring to a person by one adjective (a brain, a diabetic, an invalid) reduces that person to that one characteristic. Language that belittles or stereotypes a person poisons the communication process. Language that insults an individual or group based on age, ethnicity, sexual preference, or political beliefs violates public and private standards of decency, ranging from civil rights to corporate regulations.

The effort to create a neutral set of terms to refer to heritage and preferences has resulted in a debate over the nature of “political correctness.” Proponents of political correctness see it as a way to defuse the volatile nature of words that stereotyped groups and individuals in the past. Critics of political correctness see its vocabulary as stilted and needlessly cautious.

Many companies offer new employees written guides on standards of speech and conduct. These guides, augmented by common sense and courtesy, are solid starting points for effective, respectful workplace communication. Tips for appropriate workplace speech include but are not limited to

  • Alternating the use of “he” and “she” when referring to people in general.
  • Relying on human resources–generated guidelines.
  • Remembering that terms that feel respectful or comfortable to us may not be comfortable or respectful to others.
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