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Lựa lời mà nói [2] – Bias in language

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Xem thêm bài: Lựa lời mà nói [1] – Bias in language

Bias appears in language when a writer or speaker uses language in a way that stereotypes or excludes on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, physical capabilities, etc. Read the following sample sentence:

All businessmen attending the conference should feel free to bring their wives to the dinner.

This sentence, which could have been written in, the 1950s, is biased on three levels: (1) “businessmen” assumes that all people attending the conference are male. (The use of men/man is not gender neutral, as some used to assume.) (2) The sentence assumes marriage as the “normal” state for persons attending the conference. And (3) it assumes heterosexuality as the normal state for married relations. Further, the phrase “ free to bring their wives” also suggests that the spouses don’t have much independent agency here … they are “brought” rather than invited. This demonstrates very little respect. Avoiding bias in this context would mean showing a little more sensitivity to variations in the way that people live their lives:

All those attending the conference – as well as spouse, partner, or guest – are invited to the dinner.

The revision sounds more like the twenty-first century. It does a better job of not excluding people on the basis of gender and sexual orientation. It is a more thoughtful sentence, much more cognizant of differences among audience members. If you really want conference participants to attend the dinner, then your invitation should be open and inclusive, not exclusive. In addition, if you want your writing to be accurate, then it should reflect the reality that people in business do have a variety of gender identities and different types of relationships.

Gender bias, though common, is only one type of bias in language use. The resources listed below discuss other forms of language bias (e.g., pertaining to race and physical ability/disability) and offer exercises and stylistic alternatives to avoid biased language. The overall principle to keep in mind, though, is: Be sensitive to and respectful of your audience; be aware of their differences and variations in identities, attitudes, and lifestyles.

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