Should answerers strive to remove personal "bias" from answers? Is this a reason to edit the text?

With respect to this answer https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/81316/13944

Contrast the first paragraph, which is nation-neutral:

The US considered demonstrating the devastating effect of an atomic bomb...

...with the third, which demonstrates an us/them dichotomy and shows the answerer is American.

When we bombed Japan we had the capability to conventionally bomb Japan and were doing so with regularity. Japan didn't have the capacity to fly bombers over the US. The closest thing they had were high altitude balloons armed with firebombs.

The question could be restated as "should answers strive to sound like encyclopaedia articles?" where the author is anonymous and the focus is on the point.

I can imagine that declaring a "side" on some subjects may come across as antagonistic, or may decrease the overall value of a message. Would a Japanese person mentally downrate this answer because it was written by the "enemy"

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    $\begingroup$ It's late where I am, so just a short comment: I think everyone should strive to remove personal bias as far as possible, but I don't think this is a reason for anyone else to edit a post. An edit should not go against the authors intentions and if he wants to use words like "we" he should be able to do that. If you prefer not to use such biased words you can comment and downvote. Declaring your side doesn't make anyone automatically an antagonist in my opinion, though you are right that others may view this differently. For me it can be helpful in determining how to rate such an answer. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    May 20, 2017 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing this out. Outside of this exchange I'm not writing for an international audience. I've edited my answer to not assume the nationality of the reader. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    May 21, 2017 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ I'm avoiding whether the atomic Manhattan Project was solely the US or an effort by the Allied forces working together. That's not the point of my question, which is "we/our/us" and "they/their/them" $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    May 21, 2017 at 9:39

3 Answers 3


It's not just about declaring a side or seeming antagonistic; it's about clarity. The same considerations would apply if the question is about a known religion, a political philosophy or entity, a specific scientific field, etc.

If you say "we" in an answer (or a question for that matter), readers don't know what group you're identifying unless you say so or they work it out from context. Worldbuilding is a world-wide, multi-cultural, broad community. Please don't make people work to figure out what you probably meant.

There are also the concerns of "inclusive 'we'" raised in this answer; an answer that seems to include a reader who is not part of the group is bound to rankle.

Most of the time when people write "we" like this they just haven't thought about the issue, so if you see it in cases where it's unclear or over-broad, try to help out. If you don't know who the "we" is, you can ask in a comment. If you do know, you can help with a clarifying edit. I wouldn't generalize all the "we"s, which can change the author's voice, but it's totally ok to add a clarification like "we Americans" to the first use. Leave a comment explaining what you did and why, and perhaps the author will make further edits.


Personal bias as I understand it is something we can not avoid, and we shouldn't even try, really. Trying to imagine what might be important for all possible readers is excercise in pointless failure. Can't be done, can only limit creativity.

That said, what we see in mentioned answer is not personal bias. It's assumption that here we are, all of us Americans. And that's just wrong. Many users here are not Americans. Reading "we" as if we were feels awkward. My country never nuked anyone, please don't mix me into that.

Answers written in third person are, in my opinion, best. Americans nuked. Germans created concentration camps. Things like that are true, objective, maybe unpleasant but only for members of nations that actually did such things.

First person, singular, is worse but acceptable. If I write "I", no one feels included. In a good way, as in "nobody needs to feel finger-pointed at".

First person plural and second plural person should be, in my opinion, avoided. There is high chance reader does not feel part of it, no need to make him to. Second person, singular, is ok if you write something to OP, for example "you introduced X issue to your world with this change". To OP, not to reader,because you don't know who reader is and what he thinks.

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    $\begingroup$ "If I write "I", no one feels included." On the other hand, if you write "I", then nobody needs to feel finger-pointed at. It goes both ways. :-) $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 22, 2017 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I meant " no one feels included" in a good way. Like, you may agree or not, but I don't assume anything about you. Just about the same you probably meant by "finger pointed". $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    May 22, 2017 at 8:19

Trying to prevent personal bias is a waste of time. Where would you draw the line and who decides? The mods mostly seem to be Westerners and that bias shows through all the time on various Stack Exchange sites. It can't be helped.

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    $\begingroup$ "be the change you want to see in the world" $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    May 23, 2017 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Criggie I'm here to live my life, not try and change everyone elses. I live clean, but my definition of that is probably not the same as others, thats up to them. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    May 23, 2017 at 21:05
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    $\begingroup$ Stating which "we" one is talking about is not about preventing personal bias. It's one thing to state that "the US was right in doing X because Y" whether or not anyone else agrees that doing X was right and whether or not Y is a good justification for doing X. In that case, it's clear who and what is being talked about. It's something else to state "we were right in doing X because Y", because now all of a sudden, it's not necessarily clear who and what is being talked about. Other, less obvious, examples can be even harder to decipher. Using a more specific term than "we" solves that. $\endgroup$
    – user
    May 25, 2017 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling people would have to be pretty dense if they can't read between the lines just a tiny bit and nitpick over a word here and there pretending they didn't understand...just saying, no offence intended $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    May 25, 2017 at 11:13

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