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Humanities LibreTexts

13.4: Bias in Writing

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  • Everyone has various biases on any number of topics. For example, you might have a bias toward wearing black instead of brightly colored clothes or wearing jeans rather than formal wear. You might have a bias toward working at night rather than in the morning, or working by deadlines rather than getting tasks done in advance. These examples identify minor biases, of course, but they still indicate preferences and opinions.

    Handling bias in writing and in daily life can be a useful skill. It will allow you to articulate your own points of view while also defending yourself against unreasonable points of view. The ideal in persuasive writing is to let your reader know your bias, but do not let that bias blind you to the primary components of good argumentation: sound, thoughtful evidence and a respectful and reasonable address of opposing sides.

    The strength of a personal bias is that it can motivate you to construct a strong argument. If you are invested in the topic, you are more likely to care about the piece of writing. Similarly, the more you care, the more time and effort you are apt to put forth and the better the final product will be.

    The weakness of bias is when the bias begins to take over the essay—when, for example, you neglect opposing ideas, exaggerate your points, or repeatedly insert yourself ahead of the subject by using and repeating personal pronouns such as “I” too often, such as stating. “I believe guns should be outlawed” or “I think smoking’s bad.” Excessive repetition of any word will eventually catch the reader’s attention—and usually not in a good way. The use of I is no different.

    Being aware of all three of these pitfalls will help you avoid them.

    Checklist: Developing Sound Arguments

    Does my essay contain the following elements?

    • An engaging introduction
    • A reasonable, specific thesis that is able to be supported by evidence
    • A varied range of evidence from credible sources
    • Respectful acknowledgment and explanation of opposing ideas
    • A style and tone of language that is appropriate for the subject and audience
    • Acknowledgment of the argument’s limits
    • A conclusion that will adequately summarize the essay and reinforce the thesis
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