The UVic Writer's Guide

Slanted Language

Most language in one way or another expresses an opinion as well as communicating fact. If you wish to point out that a person saves money, you may choose a word like thrifty--which signals approval of the activity--or "miserly"--which signals disapproval. Either way your discussion will be "slanted" toward one judgment or the other.

That language communicates both fact and feeling is one of its great powers. There would be no literature if it did not. Language only becomes "slanted" (deviating from the upright) when it is deceptive or manipulative rather than persuasive. Propaganda--political or commercial--slants language in an attempt to deceive the audience into accepting a conclusion without question. But careful writers will be aware of the way their language presents an opinion, and careful readers will be conscious of the often deliberate slanting of language in the world around them.

We are appropriately wary of accepting information passed on to us from an unreliable source. During the Gulf War of 1990, commentators regularly reminded viewers that video materials coming from Iraq had been cleared by Iraqui censors. But we tend to be less sensitive to the biases of our own point of view; as an example of politically slanted language, the Manchester Guardian Weekly printed a list of words actually used in the English press to describe the activities of the two sides in the war in the Persian Gulf:

Slanted Language Part 1
Slanted language Part 2
Slanted Language Part 3

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 24, 1995