In today’s climate of widespread, often heated disagreement, the ability to successfully distinguish facts from opinions is more important than ever. Effective arguments include both factual observations and value judgements based on those facts.
In this way, arguments contain both objective and subjective statements. But which is which?
It is important to note that both objective and subjective have multiple senses. In this article, I will focus on their use as they relate to the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity in the philosophy of knowledge, or in simpler terms, to facts and opinions.
Since this site is devoted to writing and language use, I would be remiss not to include a discussion on objective and subjective as grammatical senses, as well.
What is the Difference Between Objective and Subjective?
In this article, I will compare objective vs. subjective. I will use each word in an example sentence to illustrate its proper context.
Plus, I will give you a useful memory tool that will help you decide whether something is objective or subjective.
When to Use Objective
What does objective mean? Objective is an adjective, meaning not influenced by personal feelings or bias. As such, it is a synonym of impartial or neutral.
Here are some example sentences,
- The journalist strived to engage in objective reporting.
- “Before we can proceed, we need an objective assessment of the facts of the case,” said the detective.
- “I want an objective analysis of our cash flow problems on my desk by Monday morning,” said the board chair.
- In other words, the model is purely objective and ignores outside factors like personnel, coaching and motivation. –The Wall Street Journal
When to Use Subjective
What does subjective mean? Subjective, on the other hand, means based on individual opinion or experience.
- “My subjective stance,” wrote the columnist, “is that the pasta was not very delicious.”
- Journalists should not allow subjective views to contaminate hard news reporting.
- “The article suffers from subjective interpretations of data, and we reject it from publication in this journal,” wrote a peer reviewer.
- Measuring corruption is difficult and subjective, but in 2015 the group compiled a Corruption Perceptions Index that ranks 168 countries based on the perception of corruption in the public sector. –The New York Times
With regard to sentence-level grammar, subjective refers to nouns or pronouns used as the subject of a sentence. Also, see article on subjective pronouns.
Trick to Remember the Difference
Various genres of writing require either an objective or subjective voice. With regard to the words themselves, use objective for an unbiased observation, independent from personal views, and subjective for a biased evaluation, influenced by personal opinion.
Here is a helpful trick to remember subjective vs. objective. Since objective and observation both begin with the letter O, you can use this letter to link the words together in your mind.
Also, subjective and feelings both contain the letter S, which you can use as an additional mnemonic.
Is it objective or subjective? Objective and subjective are adjectives that refer to unbiased observations and biased evaluations, respectively. They each also have a grammatical sense, where they refer to the function and placement of nouns and pronouns in sentences.
- Something that is objective is not influenced by feelings or personal biases.
- Something that is subjective is up for personal interpretation and subject to personal feelings.
Since both subjective and feelings contain the letter S, you can use this shared feature as a mnemonic to help you remember which word is which.
If you still need help, remember to check this site for a quick refresher, as well as any time you need help with a difficult writing topic.