Recognizing Objective and Subjective Language
Understanding objective and subjective language and the difference between the two helps you to make good judgments about information you hear and read.
ObjectivePoint of view where the writer is non-biased. Information is based on facts as opposed to personal feelings or opinions. The writer displays no tendency toward a preference. This style of writing is seen as more credible than a biased viewpoint. language focuses on the plain factsA piece of information that can be proven. Something that is true and indisputable. about a person or object—what is true and what can be proven. For example, consider this statement from a politician seeking reelection: "I have served two terms in the United States Senate, and I am endorsed by twenty-five of my fellow senators." It is clear that this statement contains objective language, because checking the facts will prove that the candidate did serve two terms as a legislator (lawmaker) and is indeed endorsed by twenty-five colleagues.
Another example may be found in a shampoo commercial. Consider this statement: "This brand of shampoo does not contain petroleum products and is not tested on animals." The language in this statement is objective and focuses on facts that can be proven about this particular brand of shampoo. One could test a sample of the shampoo to find out whether it contains petroleum products, or one could investigate the processes used by the company in making the shampoo to find out whether animals are used in testing.
Objective language is often used in these types of publications:
In contrast, subjectiveWording that shows a writer's feelings or opinions. For example, words such as feel, believe, and think are obvious signs that a writer is being subjective. language focuses on the attitudes, values, thoughts, feelings, or beliefs of the person who is doing the writing or speaking. Subjective language reveals the perspectiveThe point of view from which an author considers a subject or issue. of the writer and may not accurately describe the traitsThe specific parts of a person, place, or thing that distinguish it from another. of the object. The message of subjective language cannot be proven or measured. This kind of language contains judgments, interpretations, evaluations, or opinionsPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true..
The following words might be clues that someone is using subjective language:
Consider the candidate running for reelection in the example above. If the candidate says, "While I was senator, I passed important legislation (laws)" and "I am endorsed by senators who are the best legislators in our country," the candidate is using subjective language. One cannot prove that the legislation passed by the candidate was important, nor can it be proven that the candidate's sponsors are the best legislators.
Commercials and advertisements often use subjective language in an effort to persuade consumers to purchase products. In the case of the shampoo, the language of a commercial becomes subjective when it promises that the shampoo will leave the consumer with beautiful hair or that it is made of the finest ingredients. Beautiful and finest are words that evaluate the product and that express an opinion. One cannot prove that hair is beautiful or that the ingredients are the finest.
Let's look at some other examples of objective and subjective language, using the pain reliever acetaminophen as an example.
Objective language: This is a fact that can be proven. There are no evaluating words in this statement.
Subjective language: The words most dangerous evaluate acetaminophen, but one cannot prove that acetaminophen is the most dangerous of all over-the-counter medications.
Objective language: There is no language in this statement that suggests evaluation or opinion. The statement describes information that was discussed on a radio show; the studies proved that acetaminophen is responsible for a higher number of deaths than any other over-the-counter pain medication. These are facts that can be proven either true or false.
Both subjective and objective language: The episode included a segment on the death of a baby; this is objective and can be proven. However, the words tragic and should express the belief of the writer and cannot be proven. These are subjective statements.+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Learning the difference between objective language and subjective language is a critical skill in school, the workplace, and other parts of life. Objective language helps you learn the facts so you can draw your own conclusions and form your own opinion on a subject. Subjective language is used to influence how you feel or to persuade you to take action or agree with the writer. Sources that use objective language tend to be more credibleDescribes a person who is trusted and able to be believed; reliable.; these sources provide information that is more likely to be reliable and are the best sources for research. Sources that depend on subjective language are not as trustworthy because they don't provide verifiableDescribes something that can be proven to be true. facts. Since objective and subjective language are often intermixed, being able to tell the difference between the two will make it easier for you to form your own opinions about matters big and small, from which candidate you vote for to which shampoo to buy.
When you are given a writing assignment, you are often asked to give your personal opinion about a topic related to the class, but you are also expected to support that opinion with facts. This means that you will tend to use more subjective language when developing your thesis and more objective language to support that thesis. How much objectivity and subjectivity you use will depend upon the assignment, so understanding the difference will help you be more successful in your classes.
Review the following pairs of sentences and look at the explanations showing which sentences use objective language and which use subjective language and why.
The first sentence contains subjective language; the words need, mature, and wise express the writer's point of view; these are evaluations that cannot be proven. The second sentence is an objective statement of fact that can be proven.
The first sentence contains subjective language; the phrases increasing dependence and future success and the word endangers all express the writer's opinion. The second sentence is an objective statement of facts that can be proven.
The first sentence contains objective language; the language focuses on the facts of the study that can be proven. The second sentence contains the subjective evaluations that exercise is fun and good, along with the opinion that students should exercise.
The first sentence contains objective language and simply reports information from case studies without expressing a belief or opinion about the facts. The second sentence uses subjective language (unfairly discriminated against ) to make a statement that cannot be verified.
The first sentence contains the subjective phrase biggest mistake. One cannot prove that staying with a single career is the biggest mistake a new worker can make. The second sentence uses objective language to state information that was gathered from research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and that can be proven as fact.
Review the following sentences and identify which sentences use objective language and which use subjective language and why.
Subjective. Best is the opinion of the writer and cannot be proven.
Subjective. Different people might hold different opinions about which skill is most important for a software developer.
Objective. This can be proven through researching the employment requirements for database administrators.
Objective. This can be proven through researching the job responsibilities of software developers.
Subjective. The use of the words all, should, and excellent show that this is a statement of the writer's belief rather than a statement of objective fact.
In which classes or fields are you most likely to encounter objective writing? Why?
Economics, medicine, and history are fields in which I would see more objective writing because these are fields that are about facts. In economics, you read about numbers, formulas, and statistics that exist and that can be verified and proven. In medicine, you read about proven information that describes what exists in the human body and principles of health and disease that are based on studies and experiments. In history, you read about events that occurred in the past and that have been documented.
In which classes or fields are you most likely to encounter subjective writing? Why?
I would see more subjective writing in arts and music appreciation and literature classes as these classes would require students to describe their personal responses to or to evaluate works of art, music, and literature. A personal response or an evaluation of a work of art is always subjective. I cannot prove that a sculpture is beautiful or that a poem is intensely moving; I can only describe the aspects that make the sculpture or poem seem beautiful or moving to me.
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