Offensive Language: College Admissions Essay Help (page 2)
Your essay must be free of biased language, including negative stereotypes, which may result in annoying or excluding others. Whether or not its use is intentional (and often it is not), biased language can be offensive. Your goal is to make a positive connection with your reader, rather than to exclude them. Understanding the purpose of inclusive language, and using it in your essay, will assure that your message gets across as intended, without causing offense. Replace any possibly offensive words and phrases with inclusive language that doesn't offend or degrade another person.
Consider the following to avoid gender bias in your essay:
- Avoid the suffix -ess, which has the effect of minimizing the significance of the word to which it is attached (actor is preferable to actress, proprietor to proprietress).
- Do not overuse he and him. Instead, use his or her or their and those, or alternate between him and her.
- Degender titles. Businessman becomes businessperson or executive, chairman becomes chair or chairperson, stewardess becomes flight attendant, weatherman becomes meteorologist.
- When referring to a couple, don't make any assumptions. Inappropriate: Mr. Rosenberg and Caryn, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Rosenberg. Appropriate: Mr. Rosenberg and Ms. Fetzer.
- Use professional, rather than personal, descriptive terms. Inappropriate: Robin Benoit, a lovely novelist. Appropriate: Robin Benoit, an experienced novelist.
Consider the following to avoid race bias in your essay:
- Leave out any reference to race, unless it is relevant to the subject of your writing.
- Focus on a person's individual and professional characteristics and qualifications, not racial characteristics.
Consider the following to avoid disability bias in your essay:
- Discuss the person, not his or her handicap.
- If your writing is specifically focused on disabilities or disease, or you must mention them for some reason, don't use words that imply victimization or create negative stereotypes.
- Don't use the word courageous to describe a person with a disability, unless the context allows the adjective to be used for all. Someone is not courageous because they are deaf, but they may be because they swam the English Channel.
- Always put the person ahead of the disability, as in person with impaired hearing, rather than hearing-impaired person.
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