Some terms leave plenty of room for the reader’s interpretation. However, in academic writing it is about getting the author’s point across, or presenting information as close to available evidence as possible; therefore, ambiguous terms should be avoided. For instance:


In general, people in Taiwan would say they speak ‘Chinese’ and that is well understood and acceptable for simplicity purpose. However, for academic and professional writing, it will come across unprofessional. The official language in Taiwan is standard Mandarin Chinese, other principal languages, including Hokkien and Hakka, are spoken by certain subgroups of Taiwan’s population.

Many people, including native speakers of the Chinese languages, and non-natives, use ‘Chinese’ without any further specificity, possibly for simplicity purpose or they do not understand the sophisticated details; however in linguistics, the Chinese language is a group of related language varieties (reference:, the many variants are distinguished by written and spoken. In academic writing, especially if linguistics is referenced, the particular language variant should be mentioned in order to be professional and respectful.

Another aspect that is ambiguous and leave room for interpretation is geographical zoning. If a research or statement refers to a population, extra care needs to be taken to ensure accuracy or political sensitivity. The geographical zoning related terms often used for generalization or contrast: Asian vs Western, East vs West, Oriental vs Occidental.

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