Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Today's Writing Tip: That Shirt Is so Gay!

When I was young, no one worried about political correctness. There were a number of very small people in my town and most of us referred to them as munchkins or midgets. That's because we didn't know any better. Today we call those people little people; the word dwarf is also perfectly acceptable, but midget is considered offensive.

Now that we are more evolved, we realize that there are all kinds of terms that we may have grown up with that aren't really appropriate in a writer's vocabulary. Anything that sounds even remotely derogatory about gays is something that you want to avoid unless you are deliberately portraying a character in a novel as being homophobic.

Likewise with sexist terminology. If you are talking about a 53-year-old, it's best not to refer to her as a girl or a lady. Woman is the preferred term.

The word retarded has been in the news lately thanks to Ann Coulter making a big splash calling President Obama "a retard," and it's not the president who took offense! It was the disabled community, particularly those with Down's Syndrome. No doubt Coulter did not intentionally try to disparage anyone with Down's Syndrome; however, her choice of words was unfortunate. If you know anything at all about Coulter, you will know that she didn't care, but I'm sure that you do.

Because it's not just about being politically correct. It's about being sensitive, thoughtful, and kind. So when you finish writing your blog piece, your article, or your manuscript, ask yourself if any of your hidden prejudices or words that you have used all your life that you never thought of as being anti-Semitic, ageist, or whatever, could hurt somebody else's feelings. And then go back and remove them.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released "The Pink Triangle," a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here:  


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