12 reasons writers censor their writing

Should writers avoid certain topics and language to avoid offending their readers, or does that take the spice out of the craft? One writer weighs in.


The greatest challenge for me this year is to spice up my writing.

At the very worst, writing can be bland without a strong voice to hold it together. We may have self-censored to the point that the public will reject the product because it’s boring. This is not good for personal or business writing.

Why do writers self-censor?

Like any form of editing, what you choose to leave in or out is deliberate. Even if you are in the wrong, have the courage to acknowledge it. Don’t bury the story, but respond and take responsibility. Own whatever you choose to publish.

Here are some of the reasons why I feel writers self-censor.

1. To not offend.

I think this is No. 1. We are so afraid to offend anyone that we dull the impact of our words. This is a real turn off for readers who cannot get emotionally involved with the story.

2. To remain anonymous.

A writer may self-censor to hide names or locations. If the information comes from an informant, this would be to protect him. Or maybe you want to make it harder for a reader to physically stalk you. This is something you should consider, especially if you blog.

3. To avoid a misunderstanding.

I often worry about the conclusions someone might draw from my writing. But as the author, you have little control over how someone interprets your work.

4. To hide that they don’t know enough.

It’s difficult to present balanced arguments. A subject can have many opposing perspectives, and you don’t have time to research them all. This is an advantage if we ask our audience to fill us in on areas where we are ignorant.

5. To restrict language.

I still restrict the language I use and avoid cursing. Everyone has a comfort level and tolerance. A good guideline is to focus on what language will make your point clear to a reader.

6. To be politically correct.

What we find offensive is sometimes a gateway to examining our own prejudices and attitudes. “South Park” has pushed the politically correct boundaries for 16 seasons. Writing about these sensitive issues is a big responsibility. Sometimes it is just easier to avoid them all together.

7. To avoid the “big three.”

Do you discuss religion, politics or sex? These topics are explosive, but sometimes make for great conversations. Create a space where people feel safe to disagree.

8. To control anger.

Anger carries a very negative stigma, but you would find yourself in physical turmoil if you couldn’t find healthy ways express it. There are times when it is a necessary and appropriate reaction. It is not always beneficial to just put on a happy face and move on.

9. To react to a bad experience.

You will feel trepidation when you tackle a subject if people criticized an earlier work. Experience can teach us what not to publish. Only you can decide whether to try again.

10. To match the market.

This is a big one in business. Your use of language usually echoes the attitudes of your customers. A brand can put itself at risk if it doesn’t pay attention to the messages it sends.

11. To not provoke the government.

In some countries, writing anything that reflects badly on the government can make you a criminal. Writers may censor their work to avoid arrest or execution.

12. To avoid hate.

Writers may censor themselves because of their fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, this also means their voices fall silent to those looking for support.

How do you deal with censorship in your writing? How do you walk the line between self-expression and writing for an audience?

Susan Silver is a contract copywriter. A version of this article originally appeared on 12 Most.

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