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Removing Bias in Language


Gender Bias

Avoid ambiguity in sex identity or sex role by choosing nouns, pronouns and adjectives that specifically describe the participants. Sexist bias can occur when pronouns are used carelessly, as when the masculine pronoun is used to refer to both sexes or when the masculine or feminine pronoun is used to define roles by sex (e.g., “the nurse…she”).


Use plural nouns/pronouns: “A nurse who works mandatory overtime is likely to lose her ability to calculate medications correctly” to “Nurses who work mandatory overtime are likely to lose their ability to calculate medications correctly:

Replace the pronoun with an article: A nurse must complete her CE’s within two years” to “A nurse must complete the CE’s within two years.

Replacing he with he or she and vice versa should be done sparingly.

Combination forms such as he/she or (s)he are awkward and should be avoided.

Age Bias

Boy and girl are correct terms for referring to people of high school age or younger.

Young man and young woman and male adolescent and female adolescent may be used as appropriate.

For person 18 and older (or of college age and older), use men and women.

Elderly is NOT acceptable as a noun. Older person is preferred.