Recently, I wrote a personal essay for Tor.com, involving sensitive topics. I’m well aware of the challenges of writing about sensitive issues like mental health and suicide – which are in this story. I’ve written on them many times before.
I asked a friend who I know has understanding in these things. She carefully evaluated the words I used in reference to the loved one who dealt with mental health challenges. She pointed out better ways of phrasing things that could be felt by someone who has similar mental health challenges as potentially insensitive.
Though I am aware of terms that can be hurtful, I live in my own head as I write personal stories. I know what I mean. But readers don’t know. They aren’t stuck in my head with my history. That’s why we need sensitivity readers.
What is a Sensitivity Reader?
Simply stated, a sensitivity reader is someone who is aware language that can be considered painful or offensive to given readers.
For example, if an article touches on racism, ethnic, or cultural topics, a sensitivity reader will be able to point out words and phrases that could be read as unkind, insensitive, or otherwise offensive – whatever your intent behind them.
Some Great Sensitivity Readers
If you find yourself in need of a sensitivity reader, here are a few to check out.