The Ugly Sisters were ugly, everybody knows that, and in visual media they portrayed that way. I'm not going attempt to the original conflation of ugliness with evil.

The sisters are no longer ugly. Somehow they have become 'cosmetically challenged' or 'aesthetically challenged'. These descriptions affect characterisation. If a character or a narrator uses such language they come across as tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, or a snowflake.

Although this site doesn't allow critique wouldn't it be better to use plain, direct, simple language. Considering this new global environment and the language challenges it brings . . . Isn't 'Don't quit your day job' ultimately kinder than 'certain areas need addressing' or 'you'll require a good editor'.

Transfer our love of 'politeness' and the 'reluctance to offend' to other areas of real life and the results are disastrous. Take for example the #metoo movement. Many a woman ends up in hot water because she refused to declared 'Hell no!" Instead she tried to be polite, inadvertently leaving a crack of hope.

Or perhaps I can link the extreme behaviour demonstrated by the very narrow profile of mass shooters, men who were told there was always hope: if they worked hard and followed the rules they could achieve the dream. Retrospectively, would it have been better to pull them aside in 5th grade and told them they'll never be President - they should focus on a career in construction?

The outrage leading to mass shootings is felt by one demographic. Women rarely commit these atrocities, nor do blacks in the west. It is predominantly white men of a certain age on the realisation: despite all the encouragement, they are not good enough. This is the very definition of entitlement. Women were taught this at an early age, as were minorities. Neither demographic can experience the anger of total failure because the expectation of success was lowered at a very early age.

The entitled and privileged hall monitors will attempt to declare this post 'off-topic'.

It is not.

One of my characters becomes a US Senator by chance. A black, European man marries a white woman who becomes a US Senator. When she dies he adopts her position. As a man who adopts a position he was never entitled to, how does he behave?

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    While the question is valid (although the last paragraph seems to talk about privilege rather than political correctness), this reads like mostly a rant.
    – Llewellyn
    Dec 30, 2019 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


Political correctness—the term—is a distraction. It was coined in Nazi Germany to describe what would not be censored, and all applications since have been disparaging. Applied to race relations it’s used for the disparaging sense, to deflect mere criticism and conflate it with full censorship, the better to preempt critical content. Often this usage is reflexive rather than deliberate. Being consistently a misnomer, the term today means nothing accurate, only what its users fear it might mean for them.

As a writer, considering political correctness through the lens of fear is already a failure and makes one’s work materially worse, not better, both for those who shy away from the term, and for those whose reactions are feared. There is no positive for having “political correctness” in a writer’s lexicon. It offers no positive guide to improving one’s writing, only a turning away from unwanted ideas. It’s an erroneous theory of human relations. It is as harmful for a modern writer to either embrace or avoid “political correctness” as it is harmful for a modern scientist to devote any effort to either proving or disproving the theory of phlogiston. Engaging with the concept is a conceptual trap.

If “political correctness” is something that a nagging part of a writer’s being says must be faced, addressed, grappled with, that’s a start, but before setting foot to that path that writer desperately need a better map to navigate by than the conceptual dead end of “political correctness”.

Neil Gaiman suggests a better map:

I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase “politically correct” wherever we could with “treating other people with respect”, and it made me smile.

You should try it. It’s peculiarly enlightening.

I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking “Oh my god, that’s treating other people with respect gone mad!”

To apply this takes, well, the particular consciousness of a writer touching every word on the page in the images it weaves with its fellows.

Does the story respect its subject? If not, does it still respect its reader? If not, does it need to disrespect its reader? If it must, does this story need to be told?

Only the writer can answer that, when writing.

If the writer can’t answer that, doesn’t know how to answer that, doesn’t know how to tell how their text relates to their readers and what story it tells, then as always, the writer has work to do. After all, once published, everyone but the writer will answer.

But why “respect” instead of “political correctness”? It’s not just more accurate, it’s more freeing. It does not lead to sacrificing clarity.

A writer who can confidently answer those questions, in whatever mix, is miles ahead of considerations of “political correctness”. Where the latter is a crude, inaccurate straight jacket—and just as antiquated—considerations of respect for people, readers, demographics—whatever the story touches—allows a writer to navigate race with nuance and awareness. Navigating by respect allows writers to create more daring yet deft works of fiction. Navigating with respect as the guiding star allows works that “political correctness”, in its shallowness, would say should not be written.

  • Incidentally, the original meaning of political correctness was saying what one had to because of Nazi or Communist ideologies, as opposed to the ideologies we're accused of bringing to discussions when we use "PC" terms today.
    – J.G.
    Dec 30, 2019 at 18:06
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    @J.G. Ah, thank you! That explains a lot. I’ll adjust this.
    – Robin
    Dec 30, 2019 at 18:12

Political correctness is not a challenge to clarity, it IS clarity, without your cruel and hateful or disdainful spin on it.

What you call political correctness is what I call not using language I know, on average, is perceived by others as hurtful. I don't use racial epithets because I know people of the race in question typically find those epithets insulting; with the possible exception of use by friends of their own race. I don't use epithets about homosexuality because I know homosexuals feel insulted by them.

Even if I wanted to insult a member of such a group, I wouldn't use those epithets because they'd have nothing to do with why I occasionally want to insult someone, which is exclusively about being a jerk, which has nothing to do with race or sexual orientation.

There is nothing wrong with avoiding language we know is hurtful to others, the only people that seem bothered by political correctness seem to be self-centered lazy-ass jerks that just don't care about the feelings of other people, and don't mind spewing hatred, probably because they don't have the intellect to remember terms that are not offensive.

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