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Racism, homophobia, religion, sexism...

Unless it’s central to the point you’re trying to make in an essay, avoid mentioning things about a person’s religion, ethnicity, or sexuality. If you needlessly mention this information when you’re discussing someone, your audience (whoever is reading your essay) is going to think:

‘Now why did they mention that? It doesn’t seem to have any significance. What are they trying to imply?’

Even if you’ve mentioned it innocently, people may interpret you as being racist, or homophobic. It’s best to leave it out unless you have to include it.

Of course, words and their associated meanings are constantly changing. The word ‘gay’, for instance, just meant ‘happy’ or ‘carefree’ not that many years ago. So if you’re writing an essay, all sorts of conclusions can be made:

Tony was quite gay, and his personality regularly wore off on his friends.

What’s happening? Is Tony ‘happy’, or is he ‘gay’ in the modern sense of the word? What’s wearing off on his friends? His ‘happiness’ and ‘carefreeness’ or his ‘sexual orientation’?

Of course there are situations where it may be necessary to mention something about a person’s ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.

Although Harry had lived in Australia all his life, his Asian upbringing had left him with a taste for oriental food.

In this sentence, we’re trying to explain why Harry likes Asian food - it’s perfectly acceptable to mention that he was brought up in an Asian environment.