1 Way to Keep From Offending Your Readers

My title is a bit misleading.

It suggests that there is more than one way to keep from offending your readers.  Amazingly enough, there really is only one way to keep from offending 100% of your readers. 

Don’t write.

Yeah, sigh.  That’s the trick.

The truth is that anything you write will offend someone.  It won’t matter how good your intentions are… it won’t matter how careful you are with your craft, for one reason or another what you write is bound to offend some readers. 

On the other hand, the quickest way to be sure to offend is to use humor.  Humor is subjective, and is easily  the quickest way to alienate your audience.  But wait, you say, what about people like Dave Barry, and the late Douglas Adams?  They are funny, and they don’t offend me.   Yep.  They don’t offend you.  Trust me, reader, there are people who find their brand of humor insulting, childish, predictable and… oh, yeah.  Offensive.  This is why a “golden rule” for writers doesn’t work.  Can you imagine believing “write unto others as you would be written unto“?

Email and texting have taught us how easy it is to misunderstand the printed word.  “Smilies” were designed to take the sting out of words which were not accompanied by facial expressions or tones of voice.

It is sad.  There seems to be no real lingua franca when it comes to writing.  There is only an approximation, a “best intentions” attempt at communications.  And as we have all seen, best intentions make excellent paving blocks, but they don’t serve very well for much else.

So, what do we do?

We write on.  We do our best.  We write with the sure knowledge that a percentage of readers will get what we say, and get it without finding personal insult in it,  and we can but hope that those who are offended are never so much offended that they stop reading all together.

Chances are that this piece will offend some readers.

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14 responses to “1 Way to Keep From Offending Your Readers

  1. You know who the good writers are!

  2. We write on. When all else fails, we write on.

  3. Q: How many Psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: Only one, but the bulb has got to really WANT to change.

    Q: How many Feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: That’s not funny!!!

    • Don’t think the the psychiatrist joke would be considered funny, especially if the logical inference would be that what the patient needed would be some light in his/her consciousness. In fact, I would say it was very ‘judgmental’, and prejudiced from point of view of denigrating those with mental illness and attaching a stigma to their pain. I* thought you wanted to teach in such a way that we could all learn not to be judgmental.

      • WTF (first time I have ever used that!) Loreen, have you ever considered that you offend Rik’s readers and – in fact – chase them away?

        • Nope. If I offend you, I am very pleased. But I have done my research on the number of people that view Richard’s site, and I have found that my compliments may actually contribute to a larger readership. Check it out, the Site meter is available to you as well as to me. Besides, it is Richard, if he is honest and brave enough that should be telling me such a thing. I also don’t see any specific reference in your point. You do not disclose precisely, how I may have offended you or anyone else. I am quite aware however, of underhanded remarks which I cannot help feel are directed at me, as someone who has been excluded from your club. And who says that you’re interpretation is always the correct one. For instance, when I suggested on your blog, that your organize your government and your nation in order to develop the capacity to look into the garbage issue, as I have been involved in, with my children’s father, over the course of the last thirty years, to help set in place one of the best environmental systems on any nation on this planet, I did not say I was offended. I did not raise the issue that your interpretation that I suggested you pick up after the black, who you are so fearful of raping you, why do you feel this way, is racism still rampant, at least psychologically in the deep south of Africa, – when I never suggested such a thing. I told you to organize, not pick up garbage, although I could put the case that I have been picking up garbage on this website for many many ‘moons’. You do not therefore have to be concerned that you have offended me. I am, it appears, less vulnerable to insult than even you are.

    • I shall leave you then, to the light emanating from the psychiatrists, especially after your comment on your blog. It is hilarious that the question of how many Feminists it takes to change a light bulb is the subject of a joke. It takes two. The same as for men. One has to hold the ladder or the chair in place. No subtle innuendo in that remark/joke at all. But it is also true that ‘feminism’ has changed dramatically over the last thirty years, and I don’t think that change has necessarily been for the better. Don’t fall changing that light bulb, now! You’ll remember of course, that it is Spirit, and not the bulb, that lights the way.

    • Whether the statement ‘That’s not funny’ is an answer given by someone to the Question, or not, it is still a comment on the question, and would to my point of view make the same point, i.e. that someone, the answerer or the commented is objecting to the question. Someone had to say ‘That’s not funny”, and perhaps it’s not! With the psychiatrist joke, however, innuendo changes the direct statement into a focus on the light bulb rather than the psychiatrist, with is a bit of devious logic that I would not want to be involved in. The implied logic is I trust you will understand, what I have already objected to, and therefore I felt it appropriate to come to the defense of so-called mentally ill patients, who might like Richard’s hero, in his Six, be at the mercy of same old psychiatrist. You can explain yourselves, why you were offended by this. It’s not my problem.

    • Even if any of the above was not written by the person who claims authorship, I think it fair, that what is presented on any blog is the responsibility of the person who has that blog. This would allow that some of my comments have been erased from the blog, Spirit Lights the Way. I believe in allowing the other person a charitable interpretation if possible, even at my own expense. I often do this. This indeed can be verified if anyone has the patience to read poeticinteraction which is listed in the side bar of this blog. And so I leave you in peace, not with the pretension that there can be a darker side beneath the superficialities and trivialities and the desire to look good, and claim that all of the writings on these blogs are the work of a higher spirit, unencumbered with petty jealousies, and all the rest of it, which I doubt would be admitted to, but because I shall have my peace, without being accused of having an ego, or being made responsible for other people’s opinions. May the God of scripture and tradition be with you. Plato, I recall, was put to death for the destruction of the ‘old gods’. And I for one, don’t thing we are ready or capable of making a replacement which reflects the attainment of a higher consciousness, (free from sin) by assuming that our virtue attains such a level of accomplishment. I do however, speak for myself. I will continue to prefer Aristotle’s virtue, to happiness, although the philosophers have pointed out the difficulties with both perspectives, and to tell you the truth I would rather read what they have to say, than to listen to the pretensions, and forced ‘good humor’ on these blogs. May the true God give each and all of you blessings, and help you with the ego you deny having, as I pray He will not forsake me for attempting to speaking out His truth, and that I can continue still to search for that Truth, within today’s world, as best I can, within my writing.

  4. Imagine! Writing even of the dystopia that is written according to the golden rule. Imagine reading even of the violence of that world, the insight that would raise the consciousness of the reader. Juvenal wrote only 16 satiric verses on the golden days of the Roman Empire. He did not write every day. But I am reading those satiric verses, at the moment, yes, those mean ironic satirical verses, and you know what? I think, that because he is a good writer, that he does, despite his irony veering into sarcasm on the wealthy, corrupt establishment, that he does write in a way that suggests, yes, and even sometimes presents more than a hint that writing does and should reveal the golden mean/rule/way. You cannot write what you cannot be as a person.
    Juvenal may not have written much, but his writings have stood and will continue to stand the test of time.

  5. Hey! you clowns, – hope you have noticed that I haven’t stopped reading or writing, so no need for your to worry about me, Richard. In fact, with this reading of Juvenal, I may just be finding my inspiration, and have only just begun!

  6. You’ll always offend someone – doesn’t matter what you write! Even Childrens Books offend people, just look at Harry Potter!

    Besides, if you can make someone laugh, cry, get offended, angry or sad with your writing, it means you have touched their soul – they have read what you have written properly.

    If they can read without being emotionally engaged, they either haven’t read it properly or just don’t like your Genre. Simple.

    I write for myself and hope that people will get emotionally engaged in some way. I don’t write for other people.

  7. Thank you Tiger Princess. I am ‘egotistic’ enough to take this personally and I welcome this comment. I have just made another posting on my Blog, poetic interaction called ‘Good Grief! Charlie Brown’. This thanks to the blog, How to Blog a Book. It will give me a good counter to my more serious writing, as it shall hopefully be much lighter in weight. So glad you say that you write for yourself. I have rarely heard that in recent times, and I welcome such a thought. I am glad you speak for yourself, and not on cue, as I did in the acting days that I am writing about for my own amusement, and nostalgic reassessment of those ‘acting days’. And hey! a woman I knew at theater school published her ‘Rogues and Vagabonds’, a phrase used by Shakespeare in Hamlet to described the actors, and I might as well give it a go to see if I can give a ‘competitive’ version of those days back in the 60’s. And the Blog I told you about says it can be done on site. No rush for me though. I’ll post when and if I feel like it.

  8. Well, it was fun reading this again. Just put the postings and comments from poeticinteraction in the trash! Feel it is appropriate that I let you know via this post. I still don’t think that taking something personally, means that you are offended; rather it just indicates that you see the application to your life or work, whatever. That it is relevant. Idiosyncrasy! eh? They can be from a particular group or a particular individual. They would fit well into an analysis of ‘poetic interaction’. However, another time, another place. At another level of development. All the best.

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