The words subjective and objective are commonly used as adjectives and are antonyms of one another. Subjective statements are based upon one’s own opinions and emotions. Objective statements are impartial, nonpartisan, and based on multiple sources and verified facts.
Subjective and objective are opposite philosophical terms used to discuss the way people develop personal interpretations or communicate their intentions toward an audience. Each word derives alternate terms or concepts with connotations specific to context, such as writing a statement of purpose, learning about the history of philosophy, or applying journalistic ethics to media writing.
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What is the difference between subjective and objective?
The word subjective, or subjectivity, is used to interpret the way we understand information from our own point of view. A subjective perspective is one that is based on personal opinions and personal bias and is often a misleading way to help others understand the entire scope of reality or circumstances. In fact, it’s best to avoid subjective information for decision making altogether.
In contrast, the words objective and objectivity are used to describe the perspective that is closest to the reality of events occurring in a given moment. Objective information achieves a more credible perspective because it is built upon multi-sourced facts and delivered through neutral language and unbiased observations.
Key terms to note before understanding objective vs. subjective
Understanding the difference between objective and subjective is not as simple as stating a definition with examples because their definitions were developed through centuries of philosophical debate. Let’s take a look at a few consistent terms used for their definitions that are not commonly used in everyday English language.
When discussing philosophy, the word lens is used synonymously with “perspective,” rather than the literal optical definition of “lens.” The English language typically uses the word lens to describe a bent piece of glass used to improve eyesight or visualize details up close or from afar. In philosophy, the word “lens” uses this literal definition to speak metaphorically about one’s ability to develop concepts and develop a deeper consciousness of reality. Complicated, indeed!
In the English language, the word object is straightforward: an object is a person, place, or thing. Under normal social conditions, it’s not acceptable to refer to a person as an object because an object is inanimate, and describing a person an object is considered insensitive or disrespectful.
However, philosophical language can refer to people as objects when discussing a person’s existence because they are relating to that person’s combined experiences, perspectives, and overall representation. In this sense, a person is an object because they are outside of one’s self and are only understood in the way we can relate to them.
What does subjective mean?
Subjective is used as either a noun or an adjective to describe an affected object of subjectivity, or the effects of influence from personal experience, bias, and preference. The word subjectiveoriginates from Late Middle English, where it was used as a description of a submissive political figure. The Latin root word for subjective is subjectivus, as in a subject “brought under.”
Subjective as a noun
The word subjective is used as a noun to describe a subjective object or a subjective interpretation, such as a recap of events, a political message, or a memory.
Subjective as an adjective
As an adjective, the word subjective is used to describe a point of view that is inherently obscured by one’s related experiences and emotional associations. When something is said to be subjective, the subjective object is perceiving information through an individual basis, which means this perspective is not reached by consensus but rather through an opinion.
Synonyms of subjective
Words that share the definition of subjective as an adjective include:
Meditated, real, unbiased, unemotional, factual, and impartial.
Antonyms of subjective
Words that are opposite to the adjective form subjective include:
Meditated, real, unbiased, unemotional, factual, and impartial.
What does objective mean?
The word objective is defined as either a noun or adjective for statements that are straightforward and indisputable. The term objective originates from the early 17th century, where it derived from medieval Latin word objectivus.
Objective as a noun
When used as a noun, objective is defined as an end goal or a result of a targeted effort. The objective is a strategic purpose and understood as representing a lens that develops an image of an object, such as when we write an “objective” section within a resume. As shown below, a resume objective is clear, specific, and goal-oriented:
“Objective: To obtain a full time job as a telemarketing customer service representative.”
Objective as an adjective
The word objective is also used as an adjective to describe a concept or series of events that is factual, based on a diverse range of testimonies, and is not obscured by emotional language or personal feelings. For example, the dictionary objectively defines the word “day” as 24 hours, and not how a day was experienced and understood by one specific person.
Synonyms of objective
Words that share the definition of objective as a noun include:
Aim, ambition, aspiration, design, end, goal, intent, ideal, meaning, point, target, and purpose.
Words that share the definition of objective as an adjective include:
Best practices for subjective vs. objective writing
Experienced grammarians understand how there’s a time and place for every type of writing, whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, short stories, essays, science writing, social media updates, or niche-blogging.
Subjective and objective writing styles becomes especially important for news writing vs. editorial writing, as news source credibility is heavily reliant on objective reporting. Let’s take a look at different publication mediums where subjective or objective writing is acceptable.
Appropriate mediums for subjective writing
Art and entertainment reviews
Product reviews and rankings
Personal essays and blogging
Creative writing (e.g., poetry, fiction, etc.)
Spiritual or theological publications
Appropriate mediums for objective writing
Historical reference texts
Dictionaries and thesaurus resources
Peer-reviewed STEM journals
Characteristics of objective vs subjective writing
Subjective writing is identifiable with the use of flowery or coded language (i.e., words that carry heavy connotations outside of the evidence provided), which offers more assumptions about the topic rather than informed answers. Subjective writing also relies on the author’s interpretation of events to deliver a piece of information to their audience and may not include alternative perspectives or information from credible sources.
Objective writing is identified by neutral language where all relevant information is present for audiences to make an informed opinion on their own. All information within an objective writing piece is fact-checked, observable, considers multiple points of view, and is clearly understood without an opinion or personal bias from the author.
There are other ways to ensure objective writing, which is to ask if somebody is the best person to write a particular article in the first place. If an author has vested interest in a specific topic, affiliation, or is either personally connected to the writing subject outside of their assignment, the author is less likely to provide an objective statement.
Is objective writing important?
In the end, objective writing is essential for credibility, transparency, and accurate reporting. In regards to the field of journalism, some professionals believe it is impossible to be completely objective because all writers are human, and humans are innately prone to bias. Understanding the difference between subjective and objective is tricky for this reason because objectivity can be subjective, but subjectivity is rarely objective. While this may be true, journalists are still held to a high standard to be as objective as possible.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics uphold four principles that are foundational for objective journalism:
Seek truth and report it
Be accountable and transparent
All four of SPJ’s principles uphold the principle of objectivity because they demand author accountability, full context, verified information, avoidance of subjective influences, conflicts of interest, and holding other news organizations accountable for unethical practices or delivering inaccurate information.
Decide whether the following statements are subjective or objective.
The Wall Street Journal is better than the New York Times.
Social media can break down stereotypes in society.
The Einstein Visa allows certain people to immigrate to the United States.
The temperature outside is 41-degrees Fahrenheit but it feels like 31-degrees.
Objectivity is a subjective reality of objectivity.
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Alanna Madden is a freelance writer and editor from Portland, Oregon. Alanna specializes in data and news reporting and enjoys writing about art, culture, and STEM-related topics. I can be found on Linkedin.