Politically Incorrect, Offensive and Disrespectful

All sorts of new devices, apps, and what-not exist out there that are supposed to help writers become better writers, but do they?

I want my work to be the best it can be before it it’s read. Even read by my beta readers or editors.

So I tried out the Grammarly app. I even sprang for the premium version that not only proofs your work but makes suggestions on how you might improve your writing.

A couple of days ago, it told me that the word “elderly” is a politically incorrect description and could be found offensive and disrespectful by some.

Really?

I have always respected my elders, and the term elderly is used endearingly to denote that respect. I’d much rather hear someone refer to their parents and grandparents as elderly than old or senior.

The app went on to say that “suffering” from dementia denoted disability, which might also be offensive to some.

Of course, I ignore these suggestions and advise you to do the same when using these sorts of apps. Tell your story your way, and if people are offended, let them be.

You are never going to please everyone, and if they are offended, perhaps they were not your target audience.

It is next to impossible to write a remotely comedic piece without risking offending someone. This entire politically correct thing has gotten way out of hand.

Most people know me as a progressive personality, and I would not deliberately set out to stifle new ways of thinking. My work is not high-brow literature, though. Nor does it pretend to be.

I can only say, for now, if you’re disturbed by “elderly” people “suffering” from dementia, you are likely not to enjoy my story. Please don’t read it.

We don’t have a working title yet, but toying with the idea, Silver Alert.

Politically correct, or not.

 

Is your writing politically correct?

Have you read anything that was so politically incorrect you could not enjoy it?

44 thoughts on “Politically Incorrect, Offensive and Disrespectful

  1. Speaking as an editor, Grammarly has other inherent issues that make it less than user friendly. It’s creators don’t read the Chicago Manual of Style, and the suggestions are not always correct. Also, electronic editing programs don’t understand context and much of its comments are useless because of that flaw. But the creators have taken the liberty of programming their personal bias into their product in an effort to change the public’s writing habits. I find that offensive, in a way.

    • I totally agree with the personal bis issue. I primarily took it on as another tool to spell check that might help with some minor grammar issues like comma placement. But I am finding that more often than not I am hitting the “ignore” button.

  2. Hi S.K.: I understand the concern about “suffering from” when used to describe someone who is disabled. Many persons with disabilities hate it — they’d rather be seen as “living with” their disabilities, even though it makes them suffer at times.

    As for “elderly” — I use it all the time, but as authors, we need to give more detail to identify our characters.

    Is the person grey-haired, disabled, wrinkled — what? Is 65-ish still seen as “elderly”, in these days when many people live to their 90’s?

    As for the so-called “political correctness”: what an over-used term! First used in Soviet Russia in the early 20th century – to describe behaviours that toed the Communist party line — it’s morphed into a Western insult. I don’t use it, and I don’t think that way.

    It seems to cover such a big territory of generalization, a way to shut up or dismiss others – particularly women and vulnerable minorities whom it was once “safe” to make fun of, even bully. (I don’t think that’s what even the Soviets had in mind when they invented the term!)

    As to fiction, I like the advice to “always give the bad guy great lines”. I find it even more interesting when the good guys are flawed or say the occasional rude thing. And yes, comedy often works best when it’s outrageous. As an author, I’d say: leave in the offensive stuff, flesh out your characters and storyline, then work with an editor to help you determine what is crucial for the story.

    • I will always appreciate my editor. In crime fiction authors are criticized for coloring with too much detail. Readers want focus on plot, not details. I get the whole show not tell thing, but there is a fine line.

  3. It sounds like “Grammarly” is more of a regulatory agency than a helpful writing application. Yes, you are going to offend somebody at some point in time with whatever you write. But you’re more likely to please an even greater number of people. If you don’t, then I’d say you really haven’t accomplished much. Of course, I love it when I receive compliments on any of my blog posts. But I love it almost as much when I get a negative response. In either case, I’ve done my job as a writer!

    (By the way, the term “Grammarly” is not in the dictionary, and my MS Word found it highly offensive; saying it’s a waste of time and energy to point out something so blatantly incorrect. I just told it shut up and don’t worry about it.)

  4. I keep feeling guilty because I haven’t tried any of these writer apps. Now I’m wondering if I should. I’ll start to fret over my word choices, and that could dampen a writer’s creativity. Like you, I would never have guessed ‘elderly’ could be offensive. Personally, I’d rather be called ‘elderly’ than old.

    Speaking of ‘elderly’ characters, the WIP I’m working on now also has ‘elderly’ protagonists. Guess we’re both thinking it’s time they got their due! I’m using elements of a recent trip with my mother and stepfather as the background.

    • That sounds like a good story I’d love to read. After all, us baby boomers (I got in on the tail end of that) make up a significant part of the general reading population. Employing ‘elderly’ characters doing phenomenal things is a great marketing strategy, I think. Who wouldn’t root for the little white-haired woman who just offed the bad guy in a miraculous manner?

  5. Me? I doubt any of my stuff is politically correct. I care what people think, but I’m not going to tone some things down because of it. My Lisa character is a bit too much for some. There are some things that make me stop and think though. Some situations are book killers and will bring out the haters. I also don’t want that kind of attention either. Some things are so PC I do not enjoy them at all.

    • Same here. I recently read a book by one of my favorite authors and I thought it was fantastic. One of his female protagonists is pretty far out there….I mean to the point of shaving her pubic hair in public. Still, it was a a funny, well-written book. But I read through the comments and saw he’d been trashed by the “MeToo” movement folk. Kinda sad. I respect women. I am a woman. I have lived through rape and suffered abuse. But if you can’t set some things aside and find the humor in it all, you probably need a therapist. I’m not being insensitive, and I don’t feel the author was either. It was an awesome fiction story well-told.

      • If that crowd gets their way we’ll all be sporting the same haircut and wearing grey clothing. It’s almost a crime to be male today in their eyes. Give me some color, some flavor, and even a bit of controversy.

        • Didn’t you know it’s a crime to be a white male in this society. You’re supposed to feel guilty about that. Yikes…I fear for my next life in this world more than I’ve feared for anything in this one.

          • Yes, I am tired of white male bashing. I spent 33 years as a teacher in low income minority inner city schools. For this I am called bigot, fascist, rapist, imperialist, misogynist pig. Miami Dade County is now almost 60% foreign born and 80% minority. White male has little chance of getting considered for a job. This and PC, well I consider myself a moderate with Christian values but all this moves me further and further to the right and very resentful and the irony I really don’t like being in that space.

            • Apart from “80% minority” being a contradiction in terms, why is it a bad thing for any place to be “almost 60% foreign born and 80% minority”. It’s statements like that that invite the accusations you abhor.

              • I love the diversity that is Florida, but I understand why he moved away. When you’ve grown up in a place and see it change over time into a place you cannot recognize anymore you are bound to be emotionally moved. Belize, for example, is now dominated by white British, and the locals are becoming resentful. I get that.

              • Good point Frank. It was meant as a mere demographic description . Yes 80% minority seems a contradiction but that’s the point – the minorities are now the majority. It shows that the old white man control no longer exists in that part of the country which leads to a reverse discrimination. Living there for 60 years I was made to feel like I did not belong despite all but one of my grandchildren being of mixed race.

                • Hi Carl. I’m glad you took my comment in the spirit in which it was intended and I do fully understand how people who have lived in a place for a long time can feel alienated by changes taking place. It’s not just ethnicity, nor changing ratios between young and old, but the destruction of familiar buildings to be replaced by modern glass and steel structures and the urban spread into open spaces where you played as a child. All of these things can make us nostalgic for the place we knew when we were young and which it sometimes seems has been taken from us. I also think there is a need for empathy on all sides: thinking, for example, “if I feel afraid and unwelcome among all these strange people invading my home place, how must they feel, in what to them must be frighteningly strange surroundings?”

            • Understood. I feel the same way about how white southerners are viewed as if we don’t have a pea for a brain. It’s done by both the left and the right. And true…what all of this seems to do is further divide the nation.

  6. In the type of nonfiction writing I do, I have to be very careful about the words and terms I use. No doubt some people will still take offense.
    But in fiction, you might have characters that say offensive things, or a story could be set in a time when such words were acceptable.

    I won’t go on a rant about the words of certain people in power, but I certainly find them offensive. 😉

    • Agreed. I would not expect the same use of words in a memoir that I would expect to see in a horror novel…unless of course, that person had some really scary life experiences…lol I did some technical writing for a while and certainly found that I needed to be more cautious with my choice of words in that sort writing than in fiction.

      And yes, era pieces, like “Red Clay and Roses” used many words that would not be acceptable in common language today.

  7. S K I inserted the following at the front of my politically incorrect novel about Fairyland:
    This book is not suitable for children, nor is it recommended for adults who are of a gentle, sensitive or nervous disposition. The opinions as stated by the characters are neither politically correct nor in fact even kind or considerate. The author takes no responsibility for their appalling actions. It should be remembered that it refers to a time before the new laws about correct speech were promulgated. No offence is intended to any race, gender, creed or belief of any persuasion, and as such, this narrative should be treated as a work of fiction.

  8. Elderly is not on my list of offensive words either, Susan. And being political correct is overrated in my opinion. I once wrote a piece on my blog that touched on the topic “hoarding”. I was bashed for it – but only by one reader. Still, it hurt my feelings. I wasn’t trying to be mean. I know hoarding is called a disease when over-the-top. In my case H is just overly stubborn and most would just call him a collector. But they don’t have to live with it! Ha! Keep writing the way you do. It hasn’t failed you yet. Your WIP looks interesting…

    • Thank you Elle, and thanks for reblogging. I am certain there is a huge difference between collecting and the “hoarder” disease. H is not controlled by hoarding. Maybe some people watch too much TV. All the people from American Pickers would have no one to pick from if there weren’t hoarders…or at least collectors. I hoard pokemon…to the point where I run out of room to catch new pokemon…coz they keep changing the rules of the game and my old pokemon become useful again. And because they are cute.

      I’m very left wing (more an independent) and not an insensitive person. My life career would never allow for that sort of thinking. However, I feel writers should write the words that fit their story. People have to take ownership for their own feelings about it. This PC thing is so far out of hand that you have to fear offending some group for every little word uttered and that is stifling to this writer.

  9. Oh good heavens. There has to be some discernment assumed on the part of intelligent people, who should be able to tell the difference between a truly offensive term and one that is merely meant to be descriptive. “Elderly” offensive? Nonsense!

  10. I’ve had Grammarly do the same to me. I suppose fiction writers can and should take more liberties. It may be helpful to someone writing scholarly articles. “Elderly” seems a little overboard though. How about “age enhanced?” 😀

    • Yeah. I thought about all of the people writing other forms that might use the app….journalists, technical writers, etc…

      Age enhanced? kek…………I call myself old lady. Honestly, I feel the whole PC thing is absurd. I try to understand the sensitivities, and at the same time, I think wow…..what ever happened to sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never harm me? Is it really necessary to critique the language that us, as a collective society, developed. Are we really so sensitive to what people may or may not say/think that we need to consciously alter our words? And the more we do that, the narrower we become. What is correct in one era is politically incorrect in another and vise versa. After you have lived through a few eras you discover that. Am I crazy? Insane? Mentally ill? Bonkers? Manic/depressive? Bipolar? Or just plain fucked up in the head from time to time? Must we assume responsibility for other people’s feelings? I was taught I am responsible for my own feelings.

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