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Loaded (language)

A language construct, such as a word or a question[?], is said to be loaded if it imports meaning or implications beyond its denotation. This is an analogy to loaded dice.

See also connotation, presupposition, bias.

Examples of loaded words include:

  • non-sexist language, because it implies that failing to use non-sexist language is sexist
  • both of the terms pro-life and pro-choice, because each implies that the other is anti- something, specifically that pro-life is anti-choice and that pro-choice is anti-life.

These terms seem to arise most often in politics where they serve the purpose of propaganda.

Questions, on the other hand, are usually said to be loaded because they make a presupposition. Common examples of loaded questions arise in interviews, where the interviewer wishes to make a biased statement while keeping a guise of unbiased journalism. Some exaggerated examples can be quite comical, for example, the question "Do you still cheat on your taxes?" makes the presupposition that the subject of the question at one time did cheat on his/her taxes.

Avoiding loaded language where possible is essential for keeping a neutral point of view.

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