Bias results from presuming yourself or your group to be the norm or central, and others as deviating from this. Deep-seated bias is often the most invisible and, historically, the academic world has not been immune to this.

A simple way of testing for bias is to reverse your statement or substitute another group into your text, for example:

A surgeon must be aware of her limitations.
Ask your secretary if he can type the letter.
A nurse usually trains for several years before he is fully qualified.


Of course, in some cases you may wish to specify a certain group:

We long for a world where all women are free.


As well as excluding bias and prejudice, beware of presumptions with inclusive terms such as we or everyone. For example:

As we all know, England has the best cuisine in the world.
And, as everyone knows, Staines and Grimsby are its most beautiful cities.


Cultural or socioeconomic bias

Biased terminology is where a designation is not neutral, but includes some kind of subjective judgment, for instance socioeconomic or cultural, as in upper and lower class, Third World, or developed and developing:

Developed countries produce high amounts of waste per capita.
Better: Industrialized countries produce high amounts of waste per capita.


Similarly with religion, the symbols * and †, meaning born and died, are unsuitable for non-Christians. A simple, neutral alternative is b. for born and d. for died, for example:

Thomas More (*1477)
Thomas More (†1535)

Charles Darwin (b. 1809)
Charles Darwin (d. 1882)


Note also that Anglo-Saxon, referring to English-speaking countries, is not an ideal label. The US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa include of course many people from Africa, (Native) America, Asia and Oceania as well as Europe. Not only is Anglo-Saxon inaccurate, therefore, it may be offensive. A better label is English-speaking country orcountries.

Regional bias or parochialism

Unless your work is specifically regional, for an international audience you should beware of unintentional local bias:

Most Western countries have safe drinking water.
Better: Most industrialized countries have safe drinking water.


the Labour Party
Better: the British Labour Party


For international publication, including of course the internet, beware of referring to seasons, which vary geographically:

spring 2014
summer 2015


Some geographic terms, although relative, are very common, for example:

the Middle East
the Far East
the West


In cases of ambiguity, beware of using the continent label America, American and Americans to mean the USA:

A majority of Americans speak English as their first language.
Better: A majority of people in the USA and Canada speak English as their first language.


Many countries share the same currency name. Therefore, where ambiguity is possible, be specific or use the international currency code, for example:

The cost of the project was $100,000.
We received a grant of $50,000.


The cost of the project was CAD 100,000.
We received a grant of AUD 50,000.