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Author: Sydney Bauer

This lesson introduces author bias.

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Bias is having or showing a prejudice that is usually considered to be unfair. A writer might be biased for or against a topic, person, group or organization, location, object, etc. A writer might show that bias by labeling people or groups, relying on stereotypes as honest representations of people, or using charged language that shows the topic he or she favors in a positive light (and shows the other side in a negative light).


Being slightly biased isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it can be difficult to separate your personal experiences and opinions from the reality of a situation; however, showing a strong bias or prejudice (to the point of using racial slurs or other demeaning comments) will produce a strong reaction among readers. It is therefore important to notice bias when you see it in writing, and consider the writer’s intended audience when discussing bias.


A writer's bias can impact how readers see the honesty of his or her writing, but the level of impact depends on how biased the writer comes across.



Slightly Biased:

  • A slight bias might be harder to notice than moderate or strong bias. These biases are created by which facts the writer chooses to include and not include.
    • Newspaper reporters might not always use charged language, stereotypes, or labels, but they do pick and choose which stories to print, what angle and tone to report the story from, and which details to include. Most readers see the information within newspaper articles as fact; although the writer based the article on facts, he or she still chose which facts to present to the reader. In this way, reporters, and the newspapers they write for, can show a bias.
      • Each individual newspaper can eventually get a reputation for being either conservative or liberal, and will most likely target conservatives or liberals as their intended audience.
    • History textbooks are written in a similar way. They tend to highlight the advances and positive aspects of the dominant culture’s history, but downplay any negative aspects (like colonization of other cultures, or negative prejudices that exist within a culture).
      • The intended audience for a history textbook is usually students who are a part of the dominant culture of their current country. For example: an American history textbook written for American students will look at the American revolution differently than an American history textbook written for students in England or France because they have different intended audiences.


Moderately Biased:

  • A moderate bias can be effective at getting readers excited (or worked up) about a topic
    • Those who share the same bias will be reassured in their current stance, and sometimes be moved to action.
    • Those who do not share the same bias will usually have a reaction against the writing, but will often finish reading the piece of writing (to at least give the writer the benefit of the doubt). Readers that disagree with a moderately biased writer’s point of view might even pose counter arguments to the writer’s stance as they read.
      • Moderate bias is most noticeable in memoirs and autobiographies (or any type of writing that is focused on the author’s subjective point of view)
      • Fiction writers might use characters or narrators to show a moderate bias


Strongly Biased:

  • A strong bias can be overwhelming for readers, whether they agree or disagree with the writer’s stance.
    • Those who share the same biases might feel like the writer is “preaching to the choir,” meaning that the writer’s strongly worded perspective is aimed at the wrong people (i.e. people who are already convinced)
    • Those who do not share the same biases often see strongly biased statements as being empty rhetoric, a “soap box rant” created to get a reaction. When readers notice a strong bias, they tend to question the motives (or even intelligence) of the writer: does the writer have something to gain from showing such a strong prejudice? They may take offense to the language or ideas within the writing and stop reading altogether.
      • Strong bias is associated with advertising: of course companies are going to promote their product as being the best, or at least as good as the other brands.
      • Strong bias is most noticeable in opinion articles found in newspapers or blogs
      • Fiction writers that rely on stereotypes to create characters, or those who incorporate racial slurs in the language of their writing, show an obvious bias. One of the most well – known examples of this is the writing of Ernest Hemingway, who repeatedly favors white, middle to upper class males. In fact, most of those writing at the same time as Hemingway showed the same biased attitudes towards women and other cultures. It is for this reason that it is especially important to considered when a work of fiction was written, and how that affects an author’s attitudes or biases.