Academic writing aims to be fair and unprejudiced, and uses inclusive language to achieve this. Inclusivity is about not expressing bias on the basis of characteristics such as gender, culture, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion.
This doesn’t mean you can never refer explicitly to such characteristics, however. For example, referring to gender will be necessary in certain instances, such as reporting on research into the reaction times of males and females.
Here are some suggestions for how to write more inclusively:
|Non-inclusive language||Inclusive language|
|man, mankind, the average man||human beings, people, the average person|
|Avoid generic use of male pronouns (‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’)||Omit the pronoun: A staff member’s seniority can be judged from salary.
Rewrite it as plural: Lecturers should display their timetables on the door.
Make it impersonal: The driver of the offending car is not allowed to leave.
Use both pronouns: A student should submit his or her essay early.
|‘Male nurse’ or ‘female judge’||Including reference to gender may be inappropriate unless the context requires it.|
|‘The girls in the office’||‘the staff in the office’. Only use ‘girls’ if you would use ‘boys’ in the same context.|
|‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’||Use ‘Ms’ except where the traditional forms are more appropriate, as it shows bias to imply marital status for women but not men. Use titles or first names consistently for both men and women.|
|‘men and women’, ‘he and she’, ‘husband and wife’||These phrase patterns subordinate women as they are all presented second. Avoid such a pattern in your own writing by varying the order.|
|Gender biased text||Consider paraphrasing a quote that reflects an unnecessary or inappropriate bias, rather than quoting directly. By including bias, you are supporting it.|
Avoiding these sorts of terms and ‘old fashioned’ language patterns will reduce the possibility of someone in your audience feeling excluded.
For more tips to improve your academic writing, read about objectivity.