Thompson Rivers University

7 Ways to Make a Paper Sound Like it Was Written in the Stone Age

September 14, 2018

by Natalie Stewart

Academic writing should reflect the cultural values of 2018, not 1918. This means being socially aware when writing, so that you can avoid contributing to social problems like erasure and bigotry. To avoid bias, increase your awareness of the diverse groups in society. By using inclusive language, your reader will be more receptive to your arguments.

  1. Using outdated terms. Terms used in the past to identify a minority group can be now considered outdated or offensive. Check the current literature on your topic to make sure you are referring to identities, cultural groups, health conditions, and other sensitive issues in the most up-to-date terms.
  2. Using ableist language. This means language that makes able-bodied people feel superior by speaking negatively about differently-abled people. For instance, using the idiom “fall on deaf ears” implies that deafness is the same as ignorance or intolerance.
  3. Belittling mental illnesses. Do not downplay mental health issues by using mental health terms for humour. For example, don’t say, “I’m OCD” to describe your fondness for colour-coding.
  4. Being heteronormative. To be heteronormative means to treat heterosexual relationships as normal, and LGBTQ relationships as abnormal or weird. Avoid this bias by using language that reflects the diversity of sexual orientations. For instance, say “married couple” instead of “husband and wife.”
  5. Using unnecessary gender terms. Ask yourself if identifying the person’s gender is necessary. For instance, saying “woman doctor” or “male nurse” implies that the gender needs to be mentioned because it is abnormal.
  6. Writing “he or she.” Only speaking in terms of two genders erases people who have a non-binary gender identity. If the person’s gender is unknown or unimportant, use the gender-neutral pronouns “they” or “them.”
  7. Using an ethnocentric perspective. Describing your culture as “normal” or superior gives your paper an ethnocentric bias. To avoid this, never assume that the reader has the same attitudes, beliefs, values, or knowledge as you do.

Image Credit: Chris Eling

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