Objective vs. Subjective: Demistifying Commonly Confused Terms

What’s the difference between objective vs. subjective in writing? Check out our guide that compares and contrasts these common terms to get them right.

The words “objective” and “subjective” have similar uses and contexts but very different meanings. Like many similar but different words, many English writers get these wrong. If you hear someone say, “In my objective opinion,” for instance, they may be misusing the word, depending on what follows the statement.

Similarly, if you hear “subjective data,” you probably have someone who doesn’t know the difference between these two terms. In grammar and general writing, these two terms are considered opposites, and understanding them and how to use them correctly is an important part of being a skilled writer.

Objective vs. Subjective Writing: Getting It Right

Generally speaking, the word subjective means based on the personal preferences or perspectives of the person writing or speaking. Since that person is the subject, their interpretation is what goes into the opinion or writing. In contrast, the word objective means not influenced by the person’s opinion or personal feelings. Objective writing is typically simply the facts based on observation or analysis, not opinion.

If you were to think about the temperature outside, you could easily make objective and subjective statements about it. If you were speaking objectively, you would say: “It is 60 degrees outside.”

This statement is simply the fact of the temperature based on your objective observation. If you were making a subjective statement, you would say: “It is very comfortable outside today.” This is subjective because it’s your opinion. Someone else could feel chilly on a 60-degree day. Check out our loose vs. lose and biannual vs. biennial explainers.

The Meaning of Subjective Information

More specifically, subjective describes something from a person’s mind. Subjective statements have the opinion or viewpoint of the person speaking or writing, including their biases. The word subjective and the word personal can be interchanged, and subjective statements are not based on facts or data but rather on feelings and thoughts. Here are some examples of subjective statements; in each of these statements, the writer’s opinion stands out:

  • I don’t like to listen to jazz.
  • That color or blue is perfect for a dress!
  • Pizza is my favorite food.

Examples of Subjective Writing

Examples of subjective writing
A personal letter expresses the writer’s subjective feelings and personal views

Some types of writing lend themselves best to subjective opinion. Writers in these fields must explore and write about their biases to make their points. Some of these examples include:

  • Editorials: Editorials in newspapers and magazines are opinion pieces. The editor is speaking their mind about a topic of interest, and the reader knows that the information will carry bias.
  • Personal letters: Personal letters are from a subjective point of view. Regardless of the subject matter, the letter expresses the writer’s subjective feelings and personal views.
  • Blogs: Blogs are designed to share the writer’s opinion about various topics.
  • Social media: Social media posts are designed to share the person’s views on life.

The Meaning of Objective Information

In contrast, objective information is factual and based on data. It does not contain the bias of the writer or speaker, though facts can influence someone’s bias. However, the statement does not contain bias and opinion but is based on verifiable facts. Here are some examples of objective statements that contrast with the subjective statements above:

  • Though I don’t prefer jazz, many jazz musicians are skilled at improvising.
  • That dress is blue.
  • Pizza is a popular food in Chicago.

In these statements, the writer is basing the statement on facts. In the first one, there is some opinion, but the primary focus is on speaking about skilled musicians. You might also be interested in our alright vs. all right explainer.

Examples of Objective Writing

Examples of objective writing
Journalism and news reporting stick to the facts and report them as they were observed rather than dipping into opinion

Objective writing works best when dealing with a lot of data or something that needs to be fully correct and fact-based. Some common places where you might see writers use objective writing include these:

  • Journalism and news reporting: Journalistic writing should stick to the facts and report them as they were observed rather than dipping into opinion.
  • Government records: Any type of official government record needs to be based on objective data only.
  • Medical or health information: Similar to government records, anything written down related to health and medical data needs to be based on an objective assessment, not opinion.
  • Academic writing: Research published in an academic journal needs to use objective facts, not subjective opinions.

Choosing Between Subjective vs. Objective

Fact vs. Feelings

Choosing between subjective vs. objective
When choosing to write objectively or subjectively you must decide whether you should talk about facts or feelings

First, decide if you are talking about facts or feelings. If the answer is facts, then you are writing objectively. If the answer is feelings, then you are writing objectively. For example:

  • The North Pole would be a terrible place to live. (Subjective)
  • The North Pole is a cold, icy place to live. (Objective)
  • Summer is better than winter. (Subjective)
  • Summer weather is hotter than winter weather. (Objective)

Bias vs. No Bias

Next, decide if the piece of writing is going to include your bias or not. There are good writing opportunities where including your bias makes sense, so bias is not always bad. A subjective opinion will have a strong bias, whereas an objective opinion will be drawn from facts. Subjective opinion usually uses the words “think” or “feel,” while objective opinion will use the word “choose” in many instances. For example:

  • I feel like living in the South is the best choice because the people are so friendly. (Subjective opinion)
  • I have chosen to live in the South because of the warm climate and job opportunities. (Objective opinion)
  • Dogs are better pets than cats. (Subjective opinion)
  • Dogs are the preferred pet in America. (Objective observation)

Data vs. Personal Preference

Finally, decide whether the thing you are writing about is based on objective data or subjective observation. If you have a significant amount of data to back what you are saying or writing, then you will be writing objectively. If you do not, then you are taking a subjective stance. For example:

  • Because 75% of the community decided the new burger place was their favorite, we concluded it had better burgers. (Objective data)
  • I like the burgers at the new burger place better because of their toppings. (Subjective observation)
  • After observing several accidents on the street corner, I decided it was an unsafe intersection. (Objective observation)
  • I hate that street corner because I feel unsafe driving there. (Subjective opinion)

Subjective vs. Objective in Grammar

While subjective and objective refer to types of writing, they also have grammatical meanings. The objective case refers to words written to function as objects in the sentence, including direct and indirect objects. The subjective case refers to words written to serve as the subject of the sentence. In this sentence, both examples show up: “The cat ate the mouse.”

In this sentence, “the cat” is subjective, while “the mouse” is objective. With nouns in English, the subjective and objective cases are usually the same. With pronouns, they change. For example: “She ate the mouse.”

In this case, the pronoun she is in the subjective case. In contrast: “The cat ate her.” In this case, the pronoun changes to her because it is in the objective case. Here are the different subjective and objective pronouns:

  • Subjective singular: I, you, he, she, it
  • Subjective plural: We, you they
  • Objective singular: Me, her, him, it, you
  • Objective plural: They, them, us

A Final Word on Objective vs. Subjective

If you’re writing a piece, you must decide if you are using an objective or subjective point of view. These two commonly confused words are quite different in meaning. A subjective point of view is based on personal experiences and feelings, while an objective point of view is based on observation and data. In grammar, objective refers to the object of a sentence, while subjective refers to the subject of a sentence. If you’re writing with pronouns, the word will change depending on how you use it in the sentence.

Consider a mnemonic device if you still have trouble remembering the difference between these two words. Your sensibilities shape subjective opinions, while observations shape objective opinions. Since subjective and sensibilities start with “s” and objective and opinions start with “o,” this could make the two terms easier to remember.

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best grammar websites for students!

Author

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.