ielts avoid language bias high band score

IELTS Avoid Language Bias

Suggestions for avoiding language that reinforces stereotypes or excludes certain groups of people.


Race Ethnicity, and National Origin


Sexual Orientation

Depersonalization of Persons with Disabilities or Illnesses

Patronizing or Demeaning Expressions

Language That Excludes or Unnecessarily Emphasizes Differences


Sexism is the most difficult bias to avoid, in part because of the convention of using man or men and he or his to refer to people of either sex. Other, more disrespectful conventions include giving descriptions of women in terms of age and appearance while describing men in terms of accomplishment.

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mankind, man

human beings, humans, humankind, humanity, people, society, men and women


synthetic, artificial

man in the street

average person, ordinary person

Using gender-neutral terms for occupations, positions, roles, etc.
Terms that specify a particular sex can unnecessarily perpetuate certain stereotypes when used generically.

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bellman, bellboy



businessperson, executive, manager, business owner, retailer, etc.


chair, chairperson

cleaning lady, girl, maid

housecleaner, housekeeper, cleaning person, office cleaner


member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, etc.


the clergy


representative, member of Congress, legislator





girl/gal Friday




insurance man

insurance agent


layperson, nonspecialist, nonprofessional

mailman, postman

mail or letter carrier


police officer or law enforcement officer

salesman, saleswoman, saleslady, salesgirl

salesperson, sales representative, sales associate, clerk


spokesperson, representative

stewardess, steward

flight attendant


flight attendant


weather reporter, weathercaster, meteorologist





Replacing the pronoun he
Like man, the generic use of he can be seen to exclude women.

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When a driver approaches a red light, he must prepare to stop.

When drivers approach a red light, they must prepare to stop.

When a driver approaches a red light, he or she must prepare to stop.

When approaching a red light, a driver must prepare to stop.

Referring to members of both sexes with parallel names, titles, or descriptions
Don't be inconsistent unless you are trying to make a specific point.

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men and ladies

men and women, ladies and gentlemen

Betty Schmidt, an attractive 49-year-old physician, and her husband, Alan Schmidt, a noted editor

Betty Schmidt, a physician, and her husband, Alan Schmidt, an editor

Mr. David Kim and Mrs. Betty Harrow

Mr. David Kim and Ms. Betty Harrow (unless Mrs. is her known preference)

man and wife

husband and wife

Dear Sir:

Dear Sir/Madam:
Dear Madam or Sir:
To whom it may concern:

Mrs. Smith and President Jones

Governor Smith and President Jones

Race, Ethnicity, and National Origin

Some words and phrases that refer to racial and ethnic groups are clearly offensive. Other words (e.g., Oriental, colored) are outdated or inaccurate. Hispanic is generally accepted as a broad term for Spanish-speaking people of the Western Hemisphere, but more specific terms (Latino, Mexican American) are also acceptable and in some cases preferred.

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Negro, colored, Afro-American

black, African-American (generally preferred to Afro-American)

Oriental, Asiatic

Asian or more specific designation such as Pacific Islander, Chinese American, Korean


Indian properly refers to people who live in or come from India.

American Indian, Native American, and more specific designations (Chinook, Hopi) are usually preferred when referring to the native peoples of the Western hemisphere.


Inuit, Alaska Natives

native (n.)

native peoples, early inhabitants, aboriginal peoples (but not aborigines)


The concept of aging is changing as people are living longer and more active lives. Be aware of word choices that reinforce stereotypes (decrepit, senile) and avoid mentioning age unless it is relevant.

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elderly, aged, old, geriatric, the elderly, the aged

older person, senior citizen(s), older people, seniors

Sexual Orientation

The term homosexual to describe a man or woman is increasingly replaced by the terms gay for men and lesbian for women. Homosexual as a noun is sometimes used only in reference to a male. Among homosexuals, certain terms (such as queer and dyke) that are usually considered offensive have been gaining currency in recent years. However, it is still prudent to avoid these terms in standard contexts.

Avoiding Depersonalization of Persons with Disabilities or Illnesses

Terminology that emphasizes the person rather than the disability is generally preferred. Handicap is used to refer to the environmental barrier that affects the person. (Stairs handicap a person who uses a wheelchair.) While words such as crazy, demented, and insane are used in facetious or informal contexts, these terms are not used to describe people with clinical diagnoses of mental illness. The euphemisms challenged, differently abled, and special are preferred by some people, but are often ridiculed and are best avoided. (A I P PG . c om)

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person with Down syndrome


person who uses a wheelchair

AIDS sufferer, person afflicted with AIDS, AIDS victim

person living with AIDS, P.W.A., HIV+, (one who tests positive for HIV but does not show symptoms of AIDS)

polio victim

has/had polio

the handicapped, the disabled, cripple

persons with disabilities or person who uses crutches or more specific description

deaf-mute, deaf and dumb

deaf person

Avoiding Patronizing or Demeaning Expressions

These are expressions which can offend, regardless of intention. References to age, sex, religion, race, and the like should only be included if they are relevant.

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girls (when referring to adult women), the fair sex


sweetie, dear, dearie, honey

(usually not appropriate with strangers or in public situations)

old maid, bachelorette, spinster

single woman, woman, divorced woman (but only if one would specify "divorced man" in the same context)

the little woman, old lady, ball and chain


boy (when referring to or addressing an adult man)

man, sir

Avoiding Language That Excludes or Unnecessarily Emphasizes Differences

References to age, sex, religion, race, and the like should be included only if they are relevant.

Avoid This


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lawyers and their wives

lawyers and their spouses

a secretary and her boss

a secretary and boss, a secretary and his or her boss

the male nurse

the nurse

Arab man denies assault charge

Man denies assault charge

the articulate black student

the articulate student

Marie Curie was a great woman scientist

Marie Curie was a great scientist (unless the intent is to compare her only with other women in the sciences)

Christian name

given name, personal name, first name

Mr. Johnson, the black representative, met with the President today to discuss civil-rights legislation.

Mr. Johnson, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, met with the President today to discuss civil-rights legislation.

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