ON WRITING

Trigger Words: Who’s Got the Gun?

Are we writers shooting ourselves in the foot?

Adelia Ritchie, PhD
ILLUMINATION-Curated
3 min readJun 2, 2024

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I recently read an outstanding essay by Heather Pegas, about words we writers aren’t supposed to use anymore because they might offend someone.

I loved this piece for the author’s sensitivity and concern about how writers can inadvertently choose a word or phrase that can have power over another human being. And I essentially agreed with everything she had to say.

A Different Point of View

However, I don’t believe that it’s possible nor reasonable to expect every writer or orator to know every possible trigger word in a language comprising around 170,000 words in current use, with an additional 47,000 obsolete words, many of these having multiple meanings. And that’s not counting words with meanings that have morphed over time into something unrelated to their original definitions.

Let’s look at perspective for a moment. Should writers be punished for correctly and accurately using the English language? Absolutely not. We do our best to communicate our intentions clearly and with sensitivity. But if a writer’s words or phrases offend someone for any reason, but were not intended to be offensive by the person speaking or writing, then the onus should…

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Adelia Ritchie, PhD
ILLUMINATION-Curated

Author of "The Accidental Expat: A Costa Rican Adventure", science lover, contributing editor at SalishMagazine.org, expat, seeking the interesting and unusual