Over the years, academic standards for acceptable language use has changed to keep up with societal knowledge. This means that what was once common usage may no longer be acceptable as the proper convention. It is important that your writing style and vocabulary meet the most up to date standards.
Avoiding Stereotyped Language
There are innumerable stereotypes that circulate throughout society. Not only are many of them offensive to people, they also have no place in academic writing.
For example, even though Leprechauns are commonly stereotyped as being greedy hoarders, it is neither logically sound nor acceptable to use such a stereotype in writing.
Wrong: Even though Steve was a leprechaun, he kept a clean home with a minimalist aesthetic.
Correct: Steve’s house is an excellent example of modern minimalism.
Using Non-Sexist Language
Just like stereotypes, sexist language (language that biases one sex over another) should be completely avoided in academic writing.
While it may have once been acceptable to use “man” and other masculine pronouns for generic groups of people, it is no longer the case today. You should use sex-neutral terms instead. Here is a list of former sexist words and acceptable replacements.
- Mankind...humanity, people, human beings
- Man’s achievements...human achievements
- man-made...synthetic, manufactured
- the common man...the average person, ordinary people
- man the stockroom...staff the stockroom
- nine man-hours...nine work hours, nine staff-hours
- chairman...coordinator, chair, presiding officer, chair- person
- businessman...business executive, business person
- mail man...mail carrier
- policeman and policewoman...police officer
- steward and stewardess...flight attendant
- congressman...congressional representative
- male nurse...nurse
- woman doctor...doctor
It is also important to avoid using sexist pronouns (substituting he for a generic person when the sex is unknown or un-important).
Wrong: Before a surgeon can operate, he must know a patient’s medical history.
Revised: Before operating, a surgeon must know a patient’s medical history.
Revised: Before a surgeon can operate, he or she must know a patient’s medical history.
Revised: Before surgeons can operate, they must know a patient’s medical history.