Authors are encouraged to avoid perpetuating demeaning attitudes and biased assumptions about people in their writing. At the same time, historians and scholars writing analyses of past events or times or of historical figures must be careful not to misrepresent the ideas of the past in an effort to avoid language bias. Changes in nouns and pronouns may result in misrepresentation of the original author’s ideas and give a false interpretation of that author’s beliefs and intentions. In such writing, the best approach is to retain the original language and to comment on it in the discussion. Quotations should not be changed to accommodate current sensibilities.

Contemporary authors may indicate a historical author’s original term by following it with an asterisk the first time it appears in the text of their paper and by providing historical context on the same page as the quotation in a footnote. Below is an example of historically appropriate use of a term that is considered biased by today’s standards. Substituting a more gender-neutral or inclusive term would be historically inaccurate.

In forming the elite scientific society called the Experimentalists, Titchener “wanted above all to have free, informal interchange between older and younger men* in the area of experimental psychology, with the goal of socializing the next generation into the profession” (Furumoto, 1988, p. 105).1

The corresponding footnote reads as follows:

1 In this example, the term “men” conveys Titchener’s intention to exclude women from the society.

Bias-free language is covered in Chapter 5 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

Date created: September 2019