Writing about Sensitive Topics

We understand that many historical articles will deal with sensitive topics, and we want to encourage you to embark upon this with the right tools.

  • Treat all subjects with respect. Consider how the people you are writing about would prefer to be referred to. Whether this is using correct terminology or pronouns, it is important that people in the past are treated how we would treat people today.
  • Be mindful of terminology. Wording is important, and we want to ensure that we use respectful and academic language in our articles. Examples of this include using ‘sex-worker’ instead of ‘prostitute’ or ‘transgender’ instead of ‘transvestite.’ We understand that in historical contexts different wording was used, which is appropriate to use in direct quotations only. We do not use any offensive language unless directly quoting from a source which adds value to your article.
  • Use Content Warnings. If your article deals with subjects that may be triggering for some readers (homophobia or transphobia; rape and other forms of sexual violence; child abuse; animal abuse or death; racism; or self-harm) we encourage you to put a Content Warning at the beginning of your piece.

If you have any questions on whether a topic is appropriate for Retrospect, or if you are struggling to determine what language to use, please reach out to the Senior Editorial team and we will work with you on the article: info@retrospectjournal.com.


External Sources on Inclusivity and Sensitivity

Below are some external resources which discuss writing in an inclusive and sensitive manner. This is an ongoing resource, and we welcome your suggestions.

Disability Language Style Guide
National Center on Disability and Journalism

Editorial Style Guide – Inclusive Language
The University of Edinburgh

Gender identity and sexual orientation: Inclusive and antiracist writing
Simon Fraser University, British Columbia

Glossary of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Terminology
University of York

The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing about Transgender People
Alex Kapitan, The Radical Copyeditor

Sensitivity in Essay Writing
Plymouth Marjon University

A Writer’s Guide to Inclusive Language
Rachael Minott, Jericho Writers

Writing About Race, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, and Disability
Hamilton College, New York

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