Basic writing techniques

a good piece of writing and a new guide to better writing
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Published Date:03-07-2017
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Writing Hints Includes: Basic good writing suggestions APA guidelines for references Recognizing a journal article Database searches Guidelines for writing about people Common errors Avoiding plagiarism 1 Table of Contents Some Basic Good Writing Suggestions ……………………………………………………………...…… 3 More Good Writing Suggestions …………………………………………………………………………. 4 Summary of APA Editorial Style …………………………………………………………………………. 6 How Do I Know a Professional or Scholarly Journal Article When I See One? ………………………... 10 Electronic Database Searches: Getting Started ……….………………………………………………… 12 How To Prepare an Annotated Bibliography ……………………………………………………………. 13 Guidelines for Writing About People ………………………………………………………………...…. .16 Common Errors – and Ways To Avoid Them ……………………………………………………….….. .22 Avoiding Plagiarism …………………………………………………………………………………….. .33 2 Some Basic Good Writing Suggestions rd from Kirst-Ashman, K.K., & Hull, G.H., Jr. (2002). Understanding generalist practice. (3 ed.). Pacific Grove CA: Brooks/Cole, p. 574.  Choose your words carefully. Write exactly what you mean. Every word should be there for a good reason.  Avoid slang. It is unprofessional. Use ―young men‖ or ―boys‖ instead of ―guys.‖ Use ―mother‖ instead of ―mom.‖ Instead of a term like ―fizzled out,‖ use ―didn‘t succeed‖ or something similar.  Avoid words such as ―always,‖ ―average,‖ ―perfect,‖ or ―all.‖ These words can be unclear and misleading.  Avoid sexist language. Use ―Ms.‖ instead of ―Mrs.‖ or ―Miss.‖ Use ―woman‖ instead of ―lady.‖ Use ―homemaker‖ or ―woman who does not work outside of the home‖ instead of ―housewife.‖ Do not call adult women ―girls.‖  Avoid labeling people with terms such as ―sleazy,‖ ―strange,‖ ―punks,‖ ―slobs,‖ or ―low class.‖  Do not abbreviate. Some people may not understand abbreviations. You can spell the term out the first time and put the abbreviation in parenthesis right after it. Thereafter, you can just use the abbreviation. For example, ―The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the major professional organization for social work practitioners. NASW provides members with a journal and newspaper focusing on current practice issues.‖  Be concise. Determine if a sentence could use fewer words. Consider dividing long sentences into two or more smaller ones.  Use paragraphs to divide content into different topics, points, or issues. A solid page of text without paragraph breaks is hard to read. Each paragraph should have a unifying theme. Avoid using one-sentence paragraphs.  Distinguish between verified facts and your impression of the facts. Examples of ways to phrase your impressions include ―My impression is . . .,‖ ―It appears that . . .,‖ and ―It seems that . . . .‖  Proofread your written products before they go out. Failure to do so can ruin the impact of your message. Consider the social worker whose letter to another professional raised the problem of ―drive-by-shooings‖ and the need for her adolescent client to ―absent himself from sex.‖ Clearly, this letter was not proofread before it went out. 3 More Good Writing Suggestions Simpler Is Usually Better As a general rule, when writing professionally, simplify your sentences and language. Omit unnecessary words. ―That,‖ ―the,‖ and ―in order‖ often are unnecessary words. Examples: NO: I learned that I can accomplish more by way of partnering with other social workers than I can accomplish alone. YES: I learned I can accomplish more by partnering with other social workers than I can accomplish alone. NO: I can help you get the services you are in need of. YES: I can help you get the services you need. NO: This is the textbook that you will need for your next class. YES: This is the textbook you will need for your next class. NO: I am assigning essays in order to improve your professional writing skills. YES: I am assigning essays to improve your professional writing skills. NO: We should provide child care for children and vocational training for the parents. YES: We should provide child care for children and vocational training for parents. NO: Toledo General Agency serves the low-income individuals. YES: Toledo General Agency serves low-income individuals. Active and Passive Voice Generally, use the active, rather than the passive voice. The following material is excerpted from NASW Press Author Guidelines, Section 8-2-C (, retrieved 8-15-05) The active voice usually makes for livelier and more vigorous writing, according to Strunk and White, authors of Elements of Style. While there are rare occasions when the passive voice is preferable to the active, writing that relies on passively worded sentences lacks force, is less concise, and is less attractive to readers. Following are some suggestions:  Try to avoid using passive verbs unless there is absolutely no way to get around it, or you need to use it to emphasize a particular subject: Examples: Active: The kitten jumped on the catnip mouse. Passive: The catnip mouse was jumped on by the kitten. Active: She patted the dog. Passive: The dog was patted by her. 4  Using the passive voice changes the emphasis in a sentence. There are times when this is desirable (not often); it is a useful tool to master, and can help you highlight a specific point or subject. Examples: Active: The parents loved the child. (emphasizes the parents) Passive: The child was loved by its parents. (emphasizes the child) Active: A three-alarm fire blazed through an apartment building on King Street last night, leaving several residents homeless. (emphasizes the fire) Passive: Several residents of an apartment building on King Street were left homeless when a fire blazed through their building last night. (emphasizes the people) The passive voice usually results in long sentences, which can sap the writing‘s energy, as well as your readers‘ enthusiasm. Often, readers end up feeling unsure about who has done what to whom…  Always distrust "there is" and "there are" at the beginning of a sentence(the verb "to be" offers little chance of action (a state of being is, in itself, a passive concept). It often leads into a bland, unenergetic, passive-voice sentence. Examples: Original: There was no one who helped him move the desk. Good: No one helped him move the desk. (Note how the second sentence is shorter, punchier, and has more energy…) 5 SUMMARY OF APA EDITORIAL STYLE Adapted from and updated The following is a brief presentation of paper organization and major forms of citation from the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fourth Edition (1994) and Fifth Edition (2001), including its guidelines for reducing bias in language. There are advantages to using this format, particularly as most social work journals have adopted this editorial style. Note: If you have trouble with writing, contact the Writing Center. General Guidelines: Use non-sexist language in your writing. Often the easiest way to avoid sexist language in writing is to ―pluralize‖ the referents in a sentence. For example, you may change ―The client may want to talk about his or her problem early in the interview‖ to ―Clients may want to talk about their problems early in an interview.‖ Use the active voice whenever possible. Passive voice constructions are generally poor prose. For example, ―The experiment was designed by Smith‖ is weak; ―Smith designed the experiment‖ is better. Be certain that a verb agrees in number (i.e., singular or plural) with its subject, despite intervening phrases. Avoid dangling modifiers. An adjective or adverb, whether a single word or a phrase, must clearly refer to the word it modifies. Place an adjective or adverb as close as possible to the word it modifies and you will have fewer problems. o Unclear: ―The investigator tested the subjects using this procedure.‖ (It is not clear whether the investigator or the subjects are using ―this procedure.‖) o Clear: ―Using this procedure, the investigator tested the subjects. Preparation of the Paper: Every page and every line of the text should be double-spaced, including every line in the title, headings and quotations. (Note: this may not apply to all documents you write, so check with the intended reader for guidelines.) Number each page, placing numbers in the page location preferred by the intended reader of the paper. Use ample margins, at least one inch on all sides. Indent the first line of each new paragraph five to seven spaces. Use size 12 font on all text. Citation of Sources: Whether paraphrasing or quoting an author directly, you must credit the source. For a direct quotation in the text, give the author, year, and page number in parentheses. Include a complete reference in the reference list. Depending on where the quotation falls within a sentence or the text, punctuation differs. When paraphrasing or referring to an idea contained in another work, authors are not required to provide a page number. Nevertheless, authors are encouraged to do so, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text. In mid-sentence: End the passage with quotation marks, cite the source in parentheses immediately after the quotation marks, and continue the sentence. Use no other punctuation unless the meaning of the sentence requires such punctuation. She stated, ―The ‗placebo effect‘ . . . disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner‖ (Miel, 1993, p. 276), but she did not clarify which behaviors were studied. At the end of a sentence: Close the quoted passage with quotation marks, cite the source in parentheses immediately after the quotation marks, and end with the period or other punctuation outside the final parenthesis. Miele (1993) found that ―the ‗placebo effect,‘ which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when only the first group‘s behaviors were studied in this manner‖(p. 276). 6 At the end of a block quote: Cite the quoted source in parentheses after the final punctuation mark. Mield (1993) found the following: The ―placebo effect,‖ which has been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Furthermore, the behaviors were never exhibited again italics added, even when reel sic drugs were administered. Earlier studies (e.g., Abdullah, 1984; Fox, 1979) were clearly premature in attributing the results to a placebo effect. (p.276) Citations in the Text: When quoting, always provide the author, year, and specific page citation in the text and include the complete reference in the reference list. Place all direct quotes in quotation marks within the ongoing text. For quotes of less than forty words, use either of the following formats: Leahey (1992) states that ―divorce is a complex process with diverse social, psychological, legal educational and economic implications. Similarly, adjustment and adaptation following divorce are part of a complex process involving family and professional interaction in many contexts‖ (p.315). OR: ―Divorce is a complex process with diverse social, psychological legal, educational and economic implications. Similarly, adjustment and adaptation following divorce are part of a complex process involving family and professional interaction in many contexts‖ (Leahey, 1982, p. 315). For quotes longer than forty words, ‗block‘ the quote without quotation marks, but still including reference to author, year, and page: In her comprehensive review of the findings from research on divorce, Maureen Leahey (1992) notes that: Outside the nuclear family are the many supra-systems which are affected by divorce. The extended family can enhance or detract from the adjustment following separation. . . Highly anxious grandparents can enhance family anxiety, impair parental functioning, and negatively influence adjustment. Extended family members who take sides may promote polarization and conflict. On the other hand, they can often provide economic contributions which assist family stability. (p. 300) In the text of the paper, use the author‘s name and the year to identify your source. You may do this either of two ways: 1. Hepworth and Larsen (1996) identified five components in the problem-solving process. 2. The problem-solving process (Hepworth & Larsen, 1996) includes five components. Multiple authors: When a work has two authors, always cite both names and the year every time the reference occurs: (Jones & Smith, 1994). When a work has more than two authors and fewer than six, cite all authors and the year the first time the reference occurs: (Jones, Smith, Williams & Frence, 1994). After the initial cite, you can cite only the surname of the first author, followed by ―et al.‖ and the year. When a work has more than six authors, you may cite only the first author and ―et al.‖ with the initial and later citations (Jones, et al., 1994). Do not use ―and‖ within a citation parenthesis; use the symbol ―&.‖ The opposite is true in the text, outside of the parenthesis: ―Jones, Smith, Williams and French (1994) stated that . . . .‖ Within parentheses, use only the authors‘ last names, unless there is more than one author with the same last name. In this case, identify each with first initials: (Williams, B. & Williams, J., 1996). For identical multiple references within a paragraph, omit the year from subsequent citations after the first citation. 7 Citations in the Reference List: Every entry in the text must appear on the reference list. Start the reference list on a new page. Type the word ―REFERENCES‖ at the top (or REFERENCE if there is only one). Arrange the references alphabetically by authors‘ surnames. If you cite more than one work by an author, arrange the works by dates, listing the earliest publication first. In the following examples, look carefully to see where the commas, colons, periods and spaces belong. Books: Author, A. (year). Title of book italicized with only first word and any word following a colon capitalized. City: Publisher. rd Okun, B. (1997). Effective helping: Interviewing and counseling techniques (3 ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. In reference to an edited book, place the editors’ names in the author position, and enclose the abbreviation “Ed.” or “Eds.” in parentheses after the last editor’s name. McGoldrick, M., Pearce, J., & Giordana, J. (Eds.). (1982). Ethnicity and family therapy. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Periodical Articles (e.g., journals, magazines, scholarly newsletters): Author, A., & Author, B. (year). Title of the article not italicized, with only first word and any word following a colon capitalized. Name of Journal Italicized and Each Major Word Capitalized, Volume number italicized(issue number not italicized), -. do not put ―p.‖ in front of page numbers Kernis, M. (1993). There‘s more to self-esteem than whether it is high or low: The importance of stability of self- esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1190-1204. Nonperiodical Articles: Robinson, D. (1992). Social discourse and moral judgment. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Reference to a chapter in an edited book: th Author, A., & Author B. (1994). Title of chapter. In A. Editor, B. Editor, & C. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (4 ed.) (pp. xxx-xxx). Location: Publisher. Bjork, R. A. (1989). Retrieval inhibition as an adaptive mechanism in human memory. In H. L. Roediger III & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Varieties of memory & consciousness (pp. 309-330). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Report available from the Government Printing Office (GPO), government institute as group author: National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 90-1679). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Report available from the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC): Mead, J.V. (1992). Looking at old photographs: Investigating the teacher tales that novice teachers bring with them (Report No. NCRTL-RR-92-4). East Lansing, MI: National Center for Research on Teacher Learning. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service N. ED 346 082). Government report not available from GPO or a document deposit service such as the NTIS or ERIC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1992). Pressure ulcers in adults: Prediction and prevention (AHCPR Publication No. 92-0047). Rockville, MD: Author. 8 Citing Electronic Sources:  Internet article based on a print source: VandenBos, G., Knapp, S., & Doe, J. (2001). Role of reference elements in the selection of resources by psychology undergraduates Electronic version. Journal of Bibliographic Research, 5, 117-123. If you believe article has been changed from the original or includes additional data or commentaries, add date you retrieved document and the URL: VandenBos, G., Knapp, S., & Doe, J. (2001). Role of reference elements in the selection of resources by psychology undergraduates Electronic version. Journal of Bibliographic Research, 5, 117-123. Retrieved October 13, 2001, from  Article in an Internet-only journal Frederickson, B. L. (2000, March 7). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & Treatment, 3, Article 0001a. Retrieved November 20, 2000, from  Document available on university program or department Web site: Chou, L., McClintock, R., Moretti, F., & Nix, D. H. (1993). Technology and education: New wine in new bottles: Choosing pasts and imagining educational futures. Retrieved August 24, 2000, from Columbia University, Institute for Learning Technologies Web site:  Report from a private organization, available on organization Web site: Canarie, Inc. (1997, September 27). Towards a Canadian health IWAY: Vision, opportunities and future steps. Retrieved November 8, 2000 from 9 How Do I Know a Professional or Scholarly Journal Article When I See One? prepared by Reva Allen, PhD, with thanks to the University of Guelph-Humber‘s library website: Note: This document is written from the perspective of the social sciences. It may not fit natural science journals as well as it does those of the social sciences. Most professional or scholarly journals are published by a professional association, society, research association, or academic institution. Journals are concerned with academic study. Journal articles are written for scholars rather than the layperson. They are scientific. They seldom have photographs, and they are laid out in traditional formats. Journal articles are usually written by experts in the field. Journal articles often report original research, review and evaluate material that has already been published, or expand and refine theory. Articles in professional or scholarly journals are peer-reviewed (refereed). Multiple readers evaluate the quality of all submitted materials, and editors select those they feel are of sufficient quality and appropriate for their publications. Editorial board information usually is on the first or second page of each issue. Journal articles include the author‘s credentials and institutional affiliation. Journal articles often start with an abstract (a short summary of the content). Common sections of research-oriented journal articles: o Introduction/literature review o Methodology o Findings o Discussion o Implications o References (bibliography, works cited) Journal articles usually are about 7-15 pages long (at least 20 typewritten pages, double-spaced). Not all professional or scholarly journals have Journal in the title. One way to evaluate whether a publication is a professional or scholarly journal is to visit its web site and read what the publisher has to say about the type of publication it is. Note: Not all documents in a scholarly journal are articles. Journals also include pieces such as editorials, book reviews, commentaries, and practice notes. Examples of scholarly journals used by social workers: Social Work Journal of Social Work Education Child Welfare Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare Social Service Review Journal of Adolescent Research Families and Society Journal of Poverty Affilia Journal of Aging and Social Policy Health and Social Work American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 10 Magazines Are Not Scholarly Journals Magazines are collections of articles about diverse topics of popular interest and current events. Magazine articles appeal to the layperson. They are not peer-reviewed. Magazine articles seldom cite sources or have reference lists. They often are unsigned. Magazine articles may contain advertising. Magazines are published by commercial publishers. Just because Journal is in the title doesn‘t mean the publication is a journal. Examples of magazines: The Wall Street Journal Children’s Voice Social Work Today Time Psychology Today Newsweek Newspapers Are Not Scholarly Journals Newspapers disseminate news on a daily or weekly basis. Their content is usually determined by current events. They cover a vast array of topics. Their contributors are usually local staff, newswire services, and syndicated columnists. Just because Journal is in the title doesn‘t mean the publication is a journal. Examples of newspapers: The Wall Street Journal The Blade Christian Science Monitor Some Other Types of Publications That Are Not Scholarly Journals Newsletters Individuals‘ and organizations‘ websites Reports 11 Electronic Database Searches: Getting Started An electronic journal database (or index) is a tool used to find articles on a specific topic, by a specific author, from a specific journal, etc. Journal databases include documents from selected journals, all of which relate to a particular topic or profession. The organization that produces a particular database decides which journals are included in that database. For example, NASW produces Social Work Abstracts, so NASW decides which journals it includes in the database. Electronic databases are searchable. For example, you can enter a keyword or phrase, and the database will locate all the materials it has that include that keyword or phrase. You are presented with a listing of these documents that includes citation information (author, title of article, title of journal, volume and issue number, page numbers). Some databases also will provide the abstract for the article at that point. In some cases, you will be able to link to the full text of the article. Searching Journal Databases from the UP Web Site Go to the Libraries home page (click on ―Libraries‖ in the menu at the top of the UP home page). Click on the link for ―Find Articles‖ and choose the database you‘d like to search. Remember that there are lots of different databases you can search (e.g., for aging, social sciences, medicine, women‘s and gender studies, etc.). Don‘t limit yourself to just one database. The searching procedure for each database will vary a bit, so you may need to experiment a bit to discover how your database works. Additional Information Each database has its own set of keywords. If you search by keyword and obtain fewer documents than you need (or none at all), try another keyword. For example, an ArticleFirst search using ―alcoholism‖ and ―aging‖ yields 22 results. Exchanging ―elderly‖ for ―aging‖ yields 37 results. Cautionary Notes 1. Not all of the documents produced by your search will be helpful to you. In fact, you‘ll wonder how in the world some of the documents ended up in your list. So you‘ll need to go through the list and select those that look relevant for your purposes. 2. Not all of the documents produced by your search will be journal articles. Some databases include every document in a journal, including things like articles, book reviews, editorials, practice notes, announcements, and memorials. Be sure that the document you select meets the criteria for the document you need for your project. 12 How To Prepare an Annotated Bibliography Michael Engle, Amy Blumenthal, and Tony Cosgrave Reference Department, Olin & Uris Libraries, Cornell University Revised 08 August 2005 What Is an Annotated Bibliography? An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited. Annotations vs. Abstracts Abstracts are the purely descriptive summaries often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes. Annotations are descriptive and critical; they expose the author's point of view, clarity and appropriateness of expression, and authority. The Process Creating an annotated bibliography calls for the application of a variety of intellectual skills: concise exposition, succinct analysis, and informed library research. First, locate and record citations to books, periodicals, and documents that may contain useful information and ideas on your topic. Briefly examine and review the actual items. Then choose those works that provide a variety of perspectives on your topic. Cite the book, article, or document using the appropriate style. Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic. Critically Appraising the Book, Article, or Document For guidance in critically appraising and analyzing the sources for your bibliography, see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources. For information on the author's background and views, ask at the reference desk for help finding appropriate biographical reference materials and book review sources. Choosing the Correct Format for the Citations CUL Publications 7 and 8, MLA Citation Style and APA Citation Style, are available at the Uris and Olin Reference desks. Style manuals for some other formats are also kept in the reference collections. Check with your instructor to find out which style is preferred for your class. Online citation guides for both Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) are available in the Library Gateway's Help section, under the "Research Strategy and Process: Citing sources" link. 13 Sample Annotated Bibliography Entry for a Journal Article The following example uses the APA format for the journal citation: Goldschneider, F. K., Waite, L. J., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living. This example uses the MLA format for the journal citation: Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. "Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults." American Sociological Review 51 (1986): 541-554. The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living. Information added by Dr. Reva Allen: NOTE: I located these resources by searching ―social work‖ ―annotated bibliography‖ (entered both phrases) on Google. These are a few of my findings. You may repeat the search to locate additional resources. Additional Web Pages Describing Annotated Bibliographies and Their Preparation Taylor, D. (2001). Writing a critical bibliography in the health sciences and social work. Toronto, Canada: Health Sciences Writing Centre, University of Toronto., retrieved 8-16-05. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2004). Annotated bibliographies. Chapel Hill NC: Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill., retrieved 8-16-05. 14 Examples of Annotated Bibliographies Located on the Web Council on Social Work Education. (unkn.). Annotated working bibliography on social work and aging. Alexandria VA: Council on Social Work Education. sw/curriculum/annotatedbib.htm, retrieved 8-16-05. Fiebert, M.S. (2005). References examining assaults by women on their spouses or male partners: An annotated bibliography. Long Beach CA: Department of Psychology, California State University., retrieved 8-16-05. Figley, C.R. (unkn.). Burnout, Compassion Fatigue, and Resiliency Studies: Selective and Annotated Bibliography. Tallahassee FL: College of Social Work, Florida State University., retrieved 8-16-05. National Center on Elder Abuse. (2005). Annotated bibliography: Elder sexual abuse. Washington, D.C.: Clearinghouse on Abuse and Neglect of the Elderly, National Center on Elder Abuse., retrieved 8-16-05. Rosen, A.L., & Brady, E. (1997). Americans with disabilities and social work: Annotated bibliography. Washington, D.C.: National Association of Social Workers., retrieved 8-16-05. Singh, G. (2000). Annotated bibliography on anti-racist and anti-oppressive issues in social work education. Bredbury, Stockport, England: NOPTonline, National Organisation for Practice Teaching., retrieved 8- 16-05. 15 Guidelines for Writing About People Unbiased Writing Biased and Unbiased Terms NASW Press Author Guidelines, Sections 8-3-A, 8-3-B, and 8-3-C retrieved 8-12-05 8-3-A Guidelines for Writing About People By writing in a way that engages readers, encouraging them to absorb your content and put it to use, it is possible to communicate social work-related information, while also improving human lives. Eliminating the old "shorthand" for describing people will necessarily add some length to a paper—substituting members of racial and ethnic groups for minorities, or people with disabilities for the disabled, adds words—but it is more accurate and eliminates bias. Seek and use the preference of the people about whom you are writing. Ask people you work with how they prefer to be described, and use the terms they give you. If people within a group disagree on preference, report the different terms and try to use the one most often used within the group. NASW Press, for example, does not object to using alternate terms, such as black and African American, within an article or chapter as long as the content is clearly written so readers are not confused. Be sensitive to real preferences and do not adopt descriptions that may have been imposed on people, such as senior citizens. Be as specific as possible. Whenever possible, use specific racial or ethnic identities instead of collecting different groups under a general heading. For example: If you have studied work experiences among Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans, report on these three groups, rather than lumping them together as Hispanics. Describe people in positive terms. Describe what people are, rather than what they are not. For example, do not use the terms nonwhite or nonparticipant. Remember that you are writing about people. Help the reader see that you are writing about people, not subjects or objects. Use the terms sample or subject for statistics, and describe participants as respondents, participants, workers, and so forth. Keep in mind that a group of 100 people who share certain characteristics also have many traits unique to them, even if these traits are not included in your report. Imagine you are a member of the group about whom you are writing and see how you would react to the terms you have used to describe them. Avoid using terms that label people. When adjectives that describe a person‘s condition or status are used as nouns, they become labels that often connote a derogatory intent. For example, people who do not earn enough money to provide for their needs are often referred to collectively as the poor. Use poor people if you are referring to them in the aggregate. People who have lived a long time become the elderly or the aged. If you cannot use specific ages or age ranges, use terms like elders or older people. Do not refer to people with disabilities as the disabled or the handicapped. Note that the use of the article the in front of a noun is a good warning sign that you may be using a label. 16 Specific Populations Age Use boy or girl only for children and adolescents, though, for high school students, young man or young woman may be preferable. Do not use terms like senior citizen, oldster, or graybeard for people older than 65. Use specific age ranges whenever possible. Use aging and elderly as adjectives, not as nouns. Class Classism often creeps into our language. Instead of assigning class to people, you should describe their situations. This does not mean you should assume all people have the same socioeconomic advantages, but that you should describe the advantages or lack of advantages, rather than assigning attributes to people. Examples: Poor Usage Better Usage lower class people who are poor underclass with low incomes poverty class living under poverty conditions upper class with high incomes the disadvantaged with socio-economic disadvantages Classism is often combined with bias toward people in terms of race or ethnicity; it is important to take care with language that might perpetuate discrimination. Disability Remember that people, themselves, are not disabilities—they have disabilities. Additionally, the disabilities may be barriers, like stairs or curbs that handicap people. Examples: Poor Usage Better Usage the handicapped people with disabilities schizophrenics people diagnosed with schizophrenia challenged person who has ___ wheelchair-bound uses a wheelchair the blind people who are blind HIV/AIDS Say people with AIDS, not AIDS victims or innocent victims of AIDS. Avoid language that may imply a moral judgment on behavior or lifestyles. Instead of high-risk groups, which suggests demographic traits may be responsible for AIDS exposure, use high-risk behavior. 17 Race and Ethnicity Ascertain what the population group prefers and use that term. Whenever possible, be specific, and describe individual population groups rather than collecting many different groups under one term. Avoid using minority and nonwhite. Many people described in this way view the terms as pejorative and discriminatory. Assuming white people are the predominant population group is an inaccurate portrayal of most countries in the world, as well as many areas within the United States. Many people prefer to use people of color, but it is not a precise term. Not all people who might be included in the group under such a heading would describe themselves in this way. Black and white are adjectives that should be used (in lowercase only, unless they begin a sentence) to modify nouns, such as black Americans, white men, or black women. African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans are all proper nouns that should be capitalized; hyphens should never be inserted in multiword names, even when the names are modifiers. Some individuals prefer to use Hispanic or Latino as the descriptive terms for people who have a Spanish background, and some use the two together. Native American or American Indian—there has been considerable discussion over which of these terms is preferable. Many people prefer the former, because it is a more precise description. The U.S. government combines Asian and Pacific Islander, but most Pacific Islanders prefer that they be separated. Like other racial and ethic groups, many people who are white prefer not to be described by a collective term. If it is possible to be more specific—using Italian American or Eastern European, for example—do so. Take care with modifiers when describing racial and ethnic groups, ensuring that you are not suggesting or assuming they are in different socio-economic groups. For example, "We compared the reactions of African American and Hispanic men with those of middle-class white men," suggests that the first two groups are in a different status. Given historical stereotyping, the assumption would likely be that they were in a lower status. Examples: Poor Usage Possible Substitutes minorities specific population or racial and ethnic groups tribes people or nations blacks black people nonwhites specific populations Sex Use plural forms when possible, or, if writing a how-to article, address the reader directly, using I, you, and we. You can often substitute we for he, and our or the for his. Do not use contrived forms, like s/he or he/she. Also, try to avoid using alternating masculine and feminine pronouns within an article. Instead, use he or she, interspersing it equally with she or he throughout the document. 18 Examples: Poor Usage Better Usage The social worker will find that he… Social workers will find that they… Every employee should select his best option. Employees should select the best option for them. He calls his children "kids." We call our children "kids." The teacher should encourage his/her student Teachers should encourage their students She should be careful… You should be careful… Avoid words that suggest judgment, that describe women in patronizing terms (like the little lady), suggest second-class status (like authoress), demean a woman‘s ability (lady lawyer), or are rarely used to describe men (co-ed). Do not suggest that women are possessions of men, or that they cannot carry out a role or perform a job that men do. Examples: Poor Usage Better Usage Doctors often neglect their wives Doctors often neglect their families policemen police officers man a project staff a project chairman chair housewife homemaker pioneers and their wives and children pioneer families mankind humans, human beings Do not construct feminine versions of words that carry a masculine connotation. Chair or representative should be used instead of chairman, spokesman, chairwoman, or spokeswoman. Never use chairman to refer to a woman. Do not specify sex unless it is a variable or is essential to the discussion. Be sure to use parallel construction: men and women, not men and females or girls and men. Men and women are nouns, whereas female and male are best used as adjectives. Sexual Orientation Orientation is a state of being, while preference is a choice. You should not use the latter to refer to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Homosexual should only be used as an adjective. You should use lesbians, gay men, or bisexual men or women to refer to people whose orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. Distinguish between sexual orientation and sexual behavior. You should write, "the client reported same-gender sexual fantasies," instead of, "the client reported homosexual fantasies." When describing sexual activity, the appropriate terms include: female-female, male-male, male-female, and same-gender. 19 Accurate Historical Reporting When quoting any document, you must quote it exactly as the words were written or said. If describing a historical situation, you will likely want to use the words that were used in that context. You should, however, make that context clear. If you find the language too egregious, you may want to add a footnote saying this is not your language but the language of the time in which it was written. 8-3-B Unbiased Writing NASW is committed to the fair and equal treatment of all individuals and groups. The material published by the NASW Press should not promote stereotypic or discriminatory attitudes and assumptions about people. Language that might imply sexual, ethnic, or other kinds of biases, discriminations, or stereotyping may not be used. Language can reinforce either inequality or balanced, accurate, and fair treatment of individuals. Gender Recast writing that uses male pronouns to include all people. Use plurals when possible to avoid gender reference. Be sure that terms for groups of men and women are parallel. (In other words, do not use "male" doctors with "women" doctors(use "female" doctors instead.) Change terms that give the impression that only people of one sex perform certain duties or work in certain professions. (For example, use "police officer" instead of "policeman.") In case examples, use both masculine and feminine names for clients, social workers, doctors, patients, and others. Race and Ethnicity Styles and preferences for nouns referring to ethnic and other groups change over time. In some cases even members of a particular group disagree about the preferred name at a specific time. Try to ascertain the most acceptable current terms and use them. Change or expand terms for groups that could be read as negative or pejorative. When referring to members of a group, do not use adjectives as nouns (for example, use black Americans, white Americans, African Americans, Puerto Rican individuals, gay men, people with disabilities, and poor people, rather than blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans, gays, the handicapped, or the poor). Avoid language that implies a moral judgment on behavior or lifestyles. For example, say "people with AIDS" rather than "AIDS victims" or "innocent victims of AIDS." "High-risk groups" implies that some kind of demographic trait, rather than behavior is responsible for AIDS exposure. A more appropriate term is "high-risk behavior." 20

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