We have no problem with the kind of so-called “political correctness” that is designed to protect people’s feelings. The staff at Ptara see no reason to use offensive, vulgar or degrading language.
What is annoying is when people chose to get “offended” by those who use plain English and “tell it like it is.”
So, we’ve decided to simplify a few terms, and to introduce a “brief speech campaign.” Here’s a few guidelines we’ve given ourselves. They are meant for clarity only. Okay, so let’s call it the beginning of a Ptara style guide.
This post has been tagged with “censorship” because Ptara has decided that anyone who disallows us to have these standards is guilty of censorship.
Ptara Style Guide, draft 1
- African American:
- This makes sense for Obama, as his mother is American and his father African. So, naturally, he’s “African-American.” However, it’s absolutely ridiculous when used to apply to Canadians who were born in Trinidad. It’s even weirder when used to describe Germans. See also: “ethnicity or race“
- Why not just say Saxon? If you really love them, I guess you could call them angels. And if you can’t stand them, they could be “Diablo-Saxons.” If they live in America, they could be “Gringo-Saxons.” See also: “ethnicity or race“
- Use BC. The extra “e” doesn’t change anything. If the religious implications of “BC” offends you, try using the French Revolutionary Calendar.
- Love them, have one every year. Herod had a Birthday party, yes, but so did Queen Elizabeth II, and she didn’t kill any babies. Everyone has birthdays though, so the date of birth of a famous person is no big deal, and usually not interesting.
- Use AD. See BCE.
- Clichés and waffle:
- Great for jokes, atmosphere and puns, otherwise they suck. Use only when needed.
- They existed, get over it. They are also extinct. It can be used to mean giant reptiles or old fashioned people. However, if you mean birds, say birds, it’s shorter.
- The Chair, or death by electric chair or even executed in the electric chair, is much easier to say and more widely understood. This is an exception to the rule, usually brevity is better. It depends on context, but electrocution is a weird word that sounds made-up.
- Enhanced interrogation:
- Say torture, it’s more accurate.
- Ethnic Cleansing:
- Say genocide. Ethnic cleansing sounds like a laundrette run by immigrants.
- Extra-judicial killing:
- Use murder, lynching, or assassination, depending on what you mean.
- Ethnicity or Race
- Terms like ethnicity and race have changed their meanings over the centuries. “Race” was once closer to what we now call “nationality”, it was about a group of people who had a common heritage and a common political allegiance. An adopted person could be considered of the same “race” as his adoptive parents. This eventually changed, as “race” came to be more a synonym for ancestry. Ethnic group has undergone a similar change. It once meant culture, but now is increasingly used for bloodline. The bloodline and ancestry of an individual does not matter, except if you’re doing a health article on genetic diseases (for instance, more people of a certain group will develop diabetes at a young age), or something related to genealogy.
- As the world becomes more cosmopolitan, it’s harder to tell someone’s ancestry or culture by the way they look. In any case, an individual’s culture is not a genetic trait, and through adoption and assimilation, many people end up having a very different culture from that of their grandparents. So terms like ethnicity and race are useless in most scenarios, except for health and genealogy. Even then, ancestry might be more accurate.
- A person’s background does not motivate or justify violence, so “racially motivated” in inaccurate. Hate and phobias drive people to violence, but the fact that other people are different does not. In any case, the motivation for a crime is not usually known until after a trial has taken place, and it’s ridiculous to pretend to know the motivation for a crime if the accuser doesn’t even have a suspect.
- First Nations:
- Another term invented by the Democrats to refer to American Indians. I never met an Indian who was offended by being called an Indian. “American Indian” is acceptable, it differentiates Amerindians from people from the Indian subcontinent in Asia. But “First Nations” sounds confusing. Use Aboriginal or Indigenous if that’s what you mean. If talking about a specific tribe, perhaps the tribe’s name will be more acceptable. See also: “ethnicity or race“
- Flipping, freaking, effin’:
- To flip something is to turn it over. You can flip an egg, but you can’t flip “heck.” Say “flip an egg” if that’s what you mean. Freaking is a kind of dance move, and it’s kind of disturbing. Effing is using the letter f. It makes sense when you’re dubbing over a swear word, and the actor is making an “f” sound, but otherwise just drop it. It doesn’t add anything, except to the word count.
- Either refers to a male, or to someone who may be male or female, but the sex is unknown. It could also be used for a generic term, when it doesn’t matter who the subject is. Some people use “they” these days for the second or third meaning, or “he or she.” Use whatever you feel comfortable with, as long as it is clear to your intended reader and it doesn’t sound forced.
- Perfectly acceptable for a woman. There’s no need to use “Herpanic” or “Theirpanic”, nor is there need to panic if someone else doesn’t use those terms. However, hispanic is usually used in relation to Spain, and hispanic is not a synonym for South American. People from French Guyana, for example, aren’t necessarily “Hispanic.” See also: “ethnicity or race“
- Irish American:
- Around St. Patrick’s Day, every American thinks that he’s Irish. If some Bostonian has an O’ before his last name, then there’s no need to be redundant about it and call him Irish-American. See also: “ethnicity or race“
- Learning disability:
- Use this word if that’s what you mean (although “disability” on its own is usually more accurate.) However, if someone has a below average reading level because they are lazy, or because their education has been substandard, then that is not a disability. In that case, use “below average” or “substandard.”
- TV License Fee:
- TV tax.
- Nothing wrong with this word, use it if you mean it. There was a wrestler called Mankind, he lost an ear in a fight. If you’re talking about wrestling in the late eighties or early nineties, you could use humankind, to avoid unintended puns.
- Mentally Ill:
- If the person is a convicted criminal, or has done something horrendous, use crazy or insane. Only call someone “mentally ill” if you know someone else who is entirely mentally healthy. The term “mental illness” is acceptable, when you’re describing a clinical condition. However, it sounds too clinical for everyday speech. Hypochondria by Proxy, or thinking that others have an illness even when they don’t and you do, is a common mental illness.
- Monster proportions:
- Some monsters are well proportioned. I have no idea why someone would want to use this term except to offend monsters. Do you mean big? Then say so.
- Political correctness:
- Avoid this term because no one knows what it means. “Ideologically sound” is equally annoying. If you’re talking about liberalism, say liberalism. If you’re talking about censorship, say censorship.
- Public funding:
- x Orientation:
- Originally, orientation meant placing something so that it faced East. From Europe, places of worship were built facing a few famous cities in the Middle East. Eventually, orientation could be put into any direction. (Although facing West might be called Occidentation.) A document orientation is similar, it’s how the text and pictures are facing.
- An orientation at school is similar, but it might better be called an initiation. I suppose in the first week you’re learning where things are, and getting a sense of direction.
- However, misusing the word orientation to mean something like preference makes no sense.
- Can be used to refer to boats or people. When using it to refer to boats, it may sound archaic, which is a good thing, as it adds flavor to a story. It gets kind of weird when “she” is used to refer to a car, but it can be used to show the relationship of the driver with the car.
- Publicly funded body:
- Government body. Public funding is a euphamism for taxes. Anything that is funded through the government is a government body.
- Undocumented Immigrants:
- This is often used for illegal aliens or illegal immigrants. Some illegal aliens do have documents: they may be fake documents, or documents related to video rental, or to their home country, or even work contracts, but they are documents. Only use the word “undocumented” if that’s really what you mean.
- Likewise, sometimes people are expelled from an area, even their own country without having broken any immigration laws. In this case, illegal immigrant is not appropriate either. Be aware, however, that if you use “undocumented” for these people, many will read it asa euphemism for “illegal immigrants.” In this case, it makes more sense to say what happens without using names. For instance “five men who arrived in Penparcau by coracle have been detained by immigration police. Police say the men didn’t have the proper documents.” So words like men, people, individuals could easily be used instead of ‘undocumented immigrants.’
In general, if you can say it with one word, don’t use two or three. The exceptions would be where you want to play games with rhyme, rhythm or alliteration, or where the pacing of the story is helped by adding another word.
Dialogue, of course, can stay true to the characters. However, we’ve heard some terrible, forced mouthfuls. These are usually imposed by producers who try to promote an ideology instead of listening to how real people talk.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re having trouble fitting within Ptara’s word count limits: Is that word or sentence necessary? Does it make sense? Is there a quicker way to say that? Does it flow?
“Keep it real.”