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Research Guides@TCC Libraries

APA (7th Edition)

Bias Free Language Guidelines

Guideline 1: Describe at the appropriate level of specificity.

Guideline 2: Be sensitive to labels

Different terms are used for individuals of different ages, and these terms are often gendered. Use the terms individuals use to self-describe, whether these are binary gender categories of boy–girl or man–woman or descriptive and possibly nonbinary categories of transgender, genderqueer, agender, or gender-fluid.

Terms for older adults: Do not use these stigmatizing terms in your research even if your participants use them to refer to themselves (also see guidance regarding disability). Likewise, avoid negativistic and fatalistic attitudes toward aging, such as age as being an obstacle to overcome (Lindland et al., 2015). Do not use “senile”; it is an outdated term with no agreed-upon meaning. Use “dementia” instead of “senility”; 

Avoiding Gendered Pronouns


While you should always be clear about the sexual identity of your participants (if you conducted an experiment), so that gender differences are obvious, you should not use gender terms when they aren't necessary. In other words, you should not use "he," "his" or "men" as generic terms applying to both sexes.

APA does not recommend replacing "he" with "he or she," "she or he," "he/she," "(s)he," "s/he," or alternating between "he" and "she," because these substitutions are awkward and can distract the reader from the point you are trying to make. The pronouns "he" or "she" inevitably cause the reader to think of only that gender, which may not be what you intend.

To avoid the bias of using gendered pronouns:

  • Rephrase the sentence
  • Use plural nouns or plural pronouns - this way you can use "they" or "their"
  • Replace the pronoun with an article - instead of "his," use "the"
  • Drop the pronoun - many sentences sound fine if you just omit the troublesome "his" from the sentence
  • Replace the pronoun with a noun such as "person," "individual," "child," "researcher," etc.

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