Remaining Neutral in Your Writing

This page provides some suggestions to help you remain neutral as you describe or analyze a controversy.

Hear the word “neutral” and one often thinks “bland” or “lacks personality.” Remaining neutral in your writing, however, does not need to mean that your paper sounds like everyone else’s. Instead, you might think of a neutral writing voice as the voice you would use when being your most balanced, fair-minded self. Here are some other tips for remaining neutral.

Give each perspective an equal amount of time

One way to maintain neutrality in a paper is to give each side of your controversy an equal opportunity to present their position from their own perspective. Providing quotes and concrete references will help your audience locate the source of a position. Also attributing statements to their original speakers or organizations will help you create a more balanced presentation. Phrases such as "According to..." and "As stated by..." along with verbs that indicate that someone has stated a particular position, such as argues, advocates, asserts and contends will allow you to indicate that the argument you are presenting is not necessarily your own.

Present an analysis of the strengths and the weaknesses of each position

Consider including some of the same types of observations that you focused on in your analysis of a position. For instance, how is each side using persuasive appeals such as ethos, pathos, and logos? Is there one rhetorical strategy that it prefers over another? Do the arguments of a side avoid a key issue or concern? You might also point out logical fallacies that you find in common arguments.

Support your assessments with quotes and concrete evidence

One of the primary reasons that writers cite for not providing concrete evidence is that they feel that their observations are “obvious” or that “anyone would come to the same conclusions.” But it’s important remember that by the time you finish your final draft, you will know your sources better than anyone else in your class. Try to provide your audience with enough concrete evidence so that they can see the same connections.

Be aware of your own values and assumptions

Being aware of your own position on a controversy may help you notice how your own opinion may influence your presentation of other positions. If, for instance, you feel strongly that school uniforms infringe upon the rights of students, you may inadvertently present supporters of school uniforms in a negative or incomplete light. Knowing that you favor one side of a debate over others will keep you aware of your own assumptions and help you avoid bias in your paper.