I tell this story because I believe it to be a common one.
We all encounter four-letter words sooner or later, and a great many teens probably consider them a part of their regular vocabulary.
I hope this matter will be placed under your consideration.
Sincerely yours, Colin Editors’ response: Colin, you make a very well-put and convincing argument.
Blotting out undesirable words with asterisks is the editor’s way of sticking fingers in his or her ears, poking out his or her tongue, and singing with an awful, unmelodic whine “La-la-la I can’t hear you.” I don’t like that image of a Teen Ink editor, so let’s talk about this.
I recently submitted a (in the interest of full disclosure: rather half-baked) personal essay, and when I received an e-mail that it had been published online, I found that the text was nearly verbatim, save for three asterisks after an f, where “uck” should have been. And, as is the usual trend, publications have dragged their feet and kicked in opposition to change.The “damage,” if it can be called that, is already done.Now, rather than some schoolmarmish attempt to clean out young minds, I propose a discussion on the issue.When we adopt profanity into our writing, however, it is quickly labeled as unnecessary or employed purely for sensational purposes.Among the more puerile treatments of the issue in publication is blanket omission.I blame no individual editor for this and rest easy under the assumption that he or she simply followed protocol. A recent article by John Mc Phee in The New Yorker focuses partially on the legacy of the magazine’s late editor, William Shawn.In the article, Shawn is described as a wise editor, a soft-spoken and mediating man, but he maintained an unfortunate tendency to express his conservative opinion with the saying “not for us.” This phrase was employed to assuage disgruntled writers whose work was found too risqué for Shawn’s taste.Still, what I hope is that the mandate to block profanity is not sacrosanct.The editorial and supervising staff of Teen Ink should remain in continuous conversation on what is and isn’t acceptable so the publication can better represent the parlance, and thus the reality, of its contributors.You see, to further our goal of reaching – and hopefully inspiring and publishing – as many teen writers and artists as possible, Teen Ink needs schools.And I think we all know how they would react to finding an onslaught of 4-letter words in our pages.