Yes, fiction editors should consider conscious language when reviewing and editing manuscripts. Conscious language, also known as inclusive language or sensitivity editing, involves using words and phrases that are respectful and considerate of various groups of people, cultures, and identities. This practice is important for several reasons:
- Representation and Respect: Conscious language ensures that the story and characters in the fiction work are respectful and considerate of the diverse identities and backgrounds of real people. This is particularly important when dealing with characters who belong to marginalized or underrepresented groups.
- Avoiding Stereotypes and Offense: Editors should help authors avoid stereotypes and offensive language that can perpetuate harmful stereotypes or hurt readers’ feelings. This includes being aware of potentially derogatory terms, slurs, or stereotypes that may be present in the text.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Editors should ensure that authors accurately and respectfully portray different cultures, traditions, and customs. This includes avoiding cultural appropriation or misrepresentation.
- Gender and Pronouns: Editors should pay attention to gender-neutral language and the use of correct pronouns for characters who identify as non-binary or transgender. Respect for a character’s gender identity is crucial.
- Accessibility: Ensuring that the text is accessible to a wide range of readers, including those with disabilities, is also important. Editors can help authors make sure that their language is clear and doesn’t inadvertently exclude or confuse readers.
- Reader Engagement: Authors and editors should be aware that using offensive or insensitive language can alienate readers, potentially causing them to disengage from the story or stop reading altogether.
- Ethical Responsibility: Editors play a role in upholding ethical standards in publishing. Promoting conscious language aligns with ethical principles of fairness, diversity, and respect in storytelling.
- Author’s Intent: Editors should work closely with authors to understand their intent and message, helping them express their ideas and themes in a way that aligns with the principles of conscious language.
Incorporating conscious language into fiction editing is not about censorship but rather about making storytelling more inclusive, respectful, and responsible. It’s a collaborative effort between editors and authors to create works of fiction that can be enjoyed by a broad and diverse readership while avoiding harm or offense.