Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

A recurring theme here with the Grammar 101 series on Beyond the Rhetoric is that many of the errors people make with grammar are caused by the combination of two factors. First, there are many phrases and idioms that are spoken more often than they are written. Second, the ubiquity of spell check and autocorrect has led to a lot of unnecessary over-correction.

And it is perhaps due more to the first factor than the second one that people write “I am bias” or some variation thereof on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

And this would be wrong, because they probably mean to say “I am biased.” Allow me to explain why. It comes down to the part of the speech.

Bias is a noun. It is defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.” For example, if you work at Google, you may have a positive bias toward Android and a negative bias against iOS.

In this way, the bias is the opinion or inclination itself. It does not refer to or describe the person who holds that particular opinion. This works the same way in terms of racial bias, for instance.

Biased is an adjective. It is defined as “having or showing bias or prejudice.” In other words, it adds the attribute of having bias. You may have a biased opinion. You could talk about how a particular set of rules may be biased against women, for example.

And so, when “George” writes that he “is bias” on Facebook, he should be saying that he “is biased” instead. Saying “I am bias” is akin to saying “I am opinion” or “I am inclination.” Some people may say it’s a small issue, but you wouldn’t want to be a chipped coffee cup, would you?