Saturday, February 9, 2008

A note about style on slurs

I usually am a believer in the notion that every word (no matter how hateful or offensive) has a time and place when it is appropriate to use.

My former employer, United Press International, publishes a stylebook that says writers should, “not use racially derogatory terms unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.” A part of me thinks the quote from a Klan preacher (which I didn’t use when I wrote straight news stories about the Statehouse rally back in 1994) qualifies.

But I ultimately decided to not spell out the slurs. I figure readers are intelligent enough to figure out what I am writing about. While I try to write and edit the Chicago Argus in accordance with UPI style guidelines, I actually decided to follow the lead of the Chicago Defender on this issue.

THE BLACK NEWSPAPER that once circulated across the segregated South (not just the South Side) had a hard and fast rule. The crude slur for Negroes, when used at all, was spelled “n-----s.” Note they not only blanked the word out, they made sure to lower-case it as well.

Out of a sense of fairness, I have applied the same standard to “f-----s.” To spell out one while blanking out the other strikes me as ridiculous. Use both or neither. I elected to go with neither.

Besides, I’ll get a dose of pleasure from knowing that somewhere out there, some bigot who always complains about “political correctness” will read this and become infuriated.


No comments: