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Rethinking Courtesy Titles in Obituaries | Conscious Style Guide

When we die, we lose much of our say in how we want our lives, achievements, and identities framed in obituaries—that power is given to editors and journalists, who often follow industry norms.

Even though most U.S. publications have stopped using courtesy titles, exceptions are sometimes made for obituaries, where Mr., Ms., and so on are used to show respect. For example, Philly.com, the website for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, generally does not use honorifics; however, in a 2018 obit for legendary Philadelphia Eagles player Tommy McDonald, an honorific was used—for him and no one else. Honorifics also hold a precious place in certain cultural contexts, such as racial or regional. Using titles in the South, for example, can be a matter of respect and even racial equality. Read more


Events: March 28–30, 2019

If you’re attending AWP 2019 this week, come by and say hi! Learn about CSG’s creative-writing resources, the free Editors of Color Database, and The Artful Editor‘s book-editing services.
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Or if you’re at ACES 2019, don’t miss our panel on religion and conscious language on Friday at 10:30 a.m.!
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For more information, visit the Events page.

CSG in the News

Changing the Conversation, One Word at a Time: How Professional Organizations Are Pushing for Changes in the AP Stylebook—and Beyond | Center for Journalism Ethics

“I’m trying to push critical thought more. There are no simple answers. You need to just live conscious language.” —Karen Yin, founder, Conscious Style Guide


From the World of Conscious Language

Note: The authors’ viewpoints are not necessarily shared by Conscious Style Guide.

Words You’ll Never See Me Use in Restaurant Reviews | San Francisco Chronicle

“If caring about other people means I have to find a better and more creative word than ‘addictive’ to describe how good a bag of chips is, I’m fine with the small inconvenience of that.”

My Column’s Name Does a Disservice to the Immigrants Whose Food I Celebrate. So I’m Dropping It.| The Washington Post

“By writing about immigrant cuisines under a cheap-eats rubric, I have perpetuated the narrative that they should always be thought of as budget-priced.”

Stop Calling Food “Plantation” | Munchies

“Even if accidental, ‘plantation’ dishes and products add to a legacy of fictionalized history that seeks to erase hundreds of years of human trafficking, torture, rape, and forced labor without erasing any of the pain or generational inequities that resulted.”

No Scales, No Bones: Demanding Better Representation of Eating Disorders | Bitch Media

“I can’t repost sensationalized pictures of thin, white women hovering over bathroom scales…because they reinforce harmful myths about eating disorders.”

Media Outlets Routinely Present a Distorted Picture of Communities of Color. It’s Time for a Change. | Poynter

“Newsrooms have a responsibility to bridge the gaps on all fronts by including people of color in the workplace, but also educating the current staff members on diversity and inclusion so that communities of color are fairly and accurately represented in the media.”

Stop Calling Asian Women Adorable | The New York Times

“A continuing unwillingness to recognize Asian people as full human beings” is also “in even the most progressive corners of this country, an acceptable variety of racism, one that dresses up its violence in praise.”

Why Some Journalists Have a Hard Time Saying the Word “Racist” | NPR

“If you’re a person who understands ‘racism’ primarily as unjust arrangements of power and their consequences, then never reading ‘racism’ when reporting on a country that’s built and defined by white supremacy can feel like an abdication of journalistic responsibility.”

What Journalists Miss When They Ignore History | Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

“Understand that every story has a history that goes further back than the last 48 hours.”


Follow CSG on Instagram!

Follow @consciousstyleguide for examples of how context can support sensitive content, with a focus on YA books and kidlit.

A 2x2 grid of Conscious Style Guide's Instagram feed.


How Inuit Parents Teach Kids to Control Their Anger | NPR

How playful storytelling and interactive dramas can be more powerful parenting tools than scoldings and time-outs.

Why Business Jargon Isn’t All Bad | Harvard Business Review

English professor Anne Curzan “shares how to use jargon more deliberately, explains the origin of some annoying or amusing buzzwords, and discusses how English became the global business language and how that could change.”

Can a Nice Doctor Make Treatments More Effective? | The New York Times

“The simple things a doctor says and does to connect with patients can make a difference for health outcomes. Even a brief reassurance to a patient from a doctor might relieve the patient’s symptoms faster.”

Toward Changing the Language of Creative Writing Classrooms | Literary Hub

“I’m not convinced that my way of teaching is ideal. But I am convinced that we can teach creative writing without the language of failure or success, criticism or praise, and that doing so will help us avoid reproducing systemic oppressions, damaging students psychologically, and stunting creative work.”

When Writing Fantasy, Black Magic Matters, Says Zetta Elliott | The Toronto Star

“Ultimately tales of magic teach us about power, and all of our children deserve to see themselves saving the world.”

There’s a Weird, Sexist Problem in Fantasy That We Need to Talk About | Book Riot

“There is a tendency to classify women as young adult or middle grade authors, despite the actual content of their books.”

How the Word “Queer” Was Adopted by the LGBTQ Community | Columbia Journalism Review

“‘Queer’ has expanded beyond meaning only ‘homosexual.’ In fact, ‘queer’ does not have a single meaning, except perhaps ‘not heterosexual.’”

Increasing Visibility of Non-Conforming Gender Communities in Stock Photos | Columbia Journalism Review

Lindsay Schrupp, editor in chief of Vice’s Broadly, and her Broadly colleagues “created a stock photo library with images of transgender and non-binary people, to increase the visibility of those communities.”


From the Archives

Why We Should Examine Our Culinary Vocabulary | Conscious Style Guide

“It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to build and sustain a food world that is more conscious about inclusive language. It would have to start, though, with our intention to consider our word choices.”


In Case You Missed It

Steve Kleinedler Joins Conscious Style Guide’s Advisory Council | Conscious Style Guide

“I am honored to join the Conscious Style Guide advisory council. I have long championed awareness of how word choice has an effect on other people. Editors and writers play such an important role in shaping public discourse, and the CSG gives them the necessary tools to foster civility, empathy, and compassion in their work.” ―Steve Kleinedler, editor, author, lexicographer, and new member of the CSG advisory council

February 2019 Newsletter

Find tips on covering Islam in America, identifying coded language in sports, and talking to teenage boys about sexual assault.

The Conscious Style Guide newsletter rounds up the best news and blog posts from the world of kind, compassionate, mindful, empowering, respectful, and inclusive language. Note: Spotlighting an opinion is not intended as an endorsement. Please send news tips to love@consciousstyleguide.com.

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