Sensitive words - a linguistic dictatorship?

A unit, I am studying on my course is called 'The Style Guide,' covering the basic grammar errors and laws within journalism. The first piece I was set was to look at 'sensitivity' and compare what the BBC had said on the matter with other available 'style guides,' here was what I produced:

If only former Dior designer, John Galliano, read this piece and stuck to this type of conduct in everyday life.

As journalists, we have pressures to adhere to deadlines, create interesting and engaging pieces, as well as being cohesive to the assignment set. Once we have done all that we have achieved our goal, right? That may be the case, if we have written according to the publications house-style and managed to conform to the style guide. I seem to be reeling of a list of words that fit under the register of ‘authoritarianism,’ so could I be right in saying ‘us journalist’ are losing our freedom of speech and going down the path of ‘linguistic dictatorship?’
Some may argue that is the case, but sensitivity towards our readers is vital, as those are the people we are trying to connect with. The need and awareness for political correctness is imperative.
The BBC News Style guide offers a concise report clearly stating what may be published to an audience, in order not to cause offence. In reference to a person of disability, whether it is physical or mental, it is transparent that this must not define them. There is also a ‘general acceptance that some words, such as crippled, retarded and mental defect are no longer appropriate.’
The Times Style and Usage Guide gives comparable similarities on the subject, as it ascertains the abolishment of any derogative terms, i.e. idiot, in a figurative or abusive manners, when used to describe someone. For example, deaf people commonly known as ‘deaf and dumb’ should be referred to as ‘profoundly deaf’ and not the former.
Whilst both style guides concentrate on the correct use of terms, they both agree, along with Reuters, that it should only be mentioned if relevant to the story. This is also the case when talking about people of different races.
The BBC News Style Guide doesn’t tolerate racism on any level, with The Times and Associated Press referring to other races as ‘ethnic groups:’ black, white and Asian only. It also states that this should only be mentioned if necessary and appropriate.
We are at the for-front of a time where women have equal rights to men, with many women holding higher paid jobs in today’s society. Therefore, sexist comments are no longer acceptable or allowable. Reuters don’t accept language that may offend or stereotype women, with The Times offering correct terms when referencing women in a professional field, e.g. ‘serviceman’ and ‘servicewoman.’
Are you left feeling as though you’re being governed on what you can say?
The BBC News Style Guide
The Times Style and Usage Guide
Associated Press


  1. love this post dear!!very interesting!!

    Patchwork à porter

  2. Thank you very much! :)

    Xxx, Inès.


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