Writing and Ethics
(printable version here)
It is important to remain conscious of the ethical liabilities of writing. A writer must be concerned with not only avoiding plagiarism by properly citing sources, but also with language usage and the avoidance of offensive linguistic tendencies. A writer may unintentionally employ racially-charged, sexist, and offensive language without any conscious recognition. The best way to avoid such errors is to remain mindful of the following ethical pitfalls:
- Do not making sweeping generalizations about a specific gender, ethnic minority, or any other category of people.
- When referring to racial groups use accurate and politically correct terminology.
- Avoid overly inclusive racial terms, such as Asian or Hispanic: be more specific by using terms such as Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino.
- Racial titles such as "Black" should be capitalized.
- Avoid sexist phrasing, such as gender oriented diction (See the Writer's Web page on guidelines for nonsexist usage); for example: "Man is often tempted by false promises of fulfillment" could be revised by replacing "man" with "human beings": "Human beings are often tempted by false promises of fulfillment."
- Remain conscious of how you refer to individuals, even fictitious character: using "boy" or "girl" to refer to individuals above the age of eighteen may carry racial overtones and create a patronizing tone.
- When referring to individuals with physical impairments always place the description after the subject; for example: the man who is blind rather than the blind man.
- Omit language associated with negative stereotypes, such as redneck and welfare mother.
There are many exceptions to the above examples. For example, the subject of your paper may be Hispanic writers. In such a circumstance, it is by no means inappropriate to employ the term "Hispanic." Nonetheless, racial terminology is frequently used in an incorrect manner--remain conscious of such pitfalls by researching correct terminology. For further information regarding the importance of language usage and a discussion of a few specific racial terms, see Language Usage.
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