Answered By: Theresa Bell
Last Updated: Dec 08, 2017     Views: 18

The APA Style manual (American Psychological Association, 2010) encourages writers to avoid assumptions and inaccuracies in descriptions of gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic identity, disabilities and age (pp. 71-77). To ensure you are avoiding bias in your writing, avoid broad labels and only identify social groupings where relevant to ensure that your language is respectful, current, and precise. Where social identity is relevant:

  • Avoid gendered expressions when referring to multiple people in general or occupations (e.g., “persons” rather than “mankind”, “police officer” rather than “policeman”).
  • In general, identify ethnic groups by their nationality or country of origin rather than race or broad geographical area (e.g., “South African”, “Japanese”, or “Swedish” instead of “African”, “Asian”, or “Scandinavian”, or the even more generic “black” or “white”).
  • Be specific when discussing gender expression (e.g., “gay men” rather than “gays”).
  • Always focus on the person described, using adjectival forms or combining a noun with a descriptive phrase rather than in noun form (e.g., “people diagnosed with schizophrenia” or “people with paranoid personality disorder” rather than “schizophrenics” or “paranoiacs”).

For more information, please see “Is it acceptable to use “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun?”, the APA Style Blog’s post “A little respect” and Purdue University’s “APA stylistics: Avoiding bias”.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.