Answered By: Theresa Bell
Last Updated: Aug 20, 2020     Views: 118

APA 6th Edition

Writers should avoid assumptions and inaccuracies in descriptions of gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic identity, disabilities and age (American Psychological Association, 2010, 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”. Finally, please see "Inclusive + Antiracist Writing" on Simon Fraser University's Student Learning Commons website.


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

APA 7th Edition

Writers using APA Style must strive to use language that is free of bias and avoid perpetuating prejudicial beliefs or demeaning attitudes in their writing. . . . The guidelines for bias-free language contain both general guidelines for writing about people without bias across a range of topics and specific guidelines that address the individual characteristics of age, disability, gender, participation in research, racial and ethnic identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality. (American Psychological Association, n.d., para. 2)

Please visit Bias-Free Language to see numerous resources by the APA, as well as Is it Acceptable to Use “They” as a Singular, Gender-neutral Pronoun?. Finally, please see Inclusive + Antiracist Writing on Simon Fraser University's Student Learning Commons website


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Bias-free language. APA Style.