Avoid Bias in Your Website Content with These Easy Steps

Avoid Bias in Your Website Content with These Easy Steps

If you have a successful website or blog, then you already know that grammar mistakes, spelling errors and typos can drive business away. Did you know, though, that even if your text is perfect, poor word choices can cause you to lose readers? By carefully selecting words that are gender neutral and that include — rather than exclude — you will ensure that your visitors read and trust your site content without being distracted or offended.

Do not confuse using gender-neutral language with substituting personhole cover for manhole cover and other extreme attempts at political correctness. Non-biased language just makes sense. While you may have a good idea of who constitutes your target audience, there will always be visitors (and potential customers) who do not meet your target criteria. Why alienate them? Instead, make an effort to include them with gender-neutral text.

Not long ago, students were taught to use the masculine pronoun with an indefinite antecedent: During the interview, your attorney will make notes for his records. This usage is not only dated in contemporary writing, but in this example it also eliminates the approximately 30 percent of attorneys in the United States who are women. To many, it can seem biased. Using they or them is controversial and, to some readers, ungrammatical. Using he or she, s/he and him or her is awkward and distracting.

There are a number of steps you can take to eliminate bias when writing content for your website. See how easy it is by following these tips.

  • Eliminate irrelevant gender designations. John, a male nurse, enjoys the convenience of ordering from our website. This one is easy. If there’s no compelling reason for pointing out John’s gender, just leave it out: John, a nurse, enjoys the convenience of ordering from our website.
  • Make the pronoun plural. Anyone interested in details should send his or her information through our Contact Us page can easily become Those interested in details should send their information through our Contact Us page simply by changing from singular to plural.
  • Switch to the imperative mood. Using the same example above, we can change Anyone interested in details should send his or her information through our Contact Us page to For details, send your information through our Contact Us page. The imperative, used sparingly, can work well in many situations, especially in calls to action.
  • Remove the pronoun when possible. Tell a friend about our website, and share this discount code with her. Deleting with her conveys the same meaning more concisely and makes the sentence inclusive.
  • Repeat the noun. You can easily fix a construction such as A new user can resolve issues he might encounter through our online forum by repeating the noun: A new user can resolve issues new users might encounter through our online forum.
  • Use an article instead of the pronoun. A simple substitution of a or the is all you need to correct some sentences. A registered customer is always welcome to submit his review becomes A registered customer is always welcome to submit a review without any loss of clarity.

These are just a few of the tricks you can use. Sometimes just rewriting the sentence is the best solution when all else fails. By being aware of biased language and taking steps to make your content gender neutral, you make your website more credible and your content fair, friendly and inviting.

 

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