Challenge Journal #5: Am I offending you?

I think one of my biggest fears about how my project might be received is that the project will actually offend some members of my audience.

One of the greatest components of my English 425 class in the Fall semester was the peer-editing portion. We had to write each other letters after reading each other’s work, and our professor insisted that we learn to frame our negative comments in a positive manner.


For example:

You use detail so beautifully in each of your anecdotes. As your reader, I can clearly imagine your young mother on a beautiful sunny day: I can see that emerald sparkle that lights up her shoes in the sunlight and the smile on her face that mirrors that sparkle; I can feel the rural small-town American charm in paragraph seventeen. I wish, however, that you would show us your personal reactions to these things and these moments. There are so many wonderfully developed characters in these stories, and I would love to see you further develop your own character as the protagonist.


Now, I am trying to find the best way to frame my more offensive comments—or, rather, the highly offensive practices that I must discuss. As I try to frame my negative comments in a positive (not really positive—it’s all relative) manner, I fear that I am tip-toeing around my own fears in a way that is masking what I am actually trying to say. How do I sugarcoat something that actually loses value upon being sugarcoated?

I guess I just don’t, but my brain is rejecting my own words as I write them down.

2 thoughts to “Challenge Journal #5: Am I offending you?”

  1. Hey Allison! Im in the other gateway class with T this semester. I was scrolling through the blog, and your last comments caught my eye. I relate. So. Much.
    Sometimes, when I’m writing I find myself hitting the backspace key more often than any letter (and not just from typos). Writing can just be so dang difficult sometimes. Honestly, I’d let your brain write inhibited. Don’t worry about the future, what someone might think when if they see it, and just write without too much thought. After all, you control who see what when, so don’t let potential fear hold you back. Does that make sense?
    Best of luck — you got this!

  2. Hi Allison—

    This is a really interesting comment, and one that I relate to a lot. For my capstone project, I’m writing a series of essays that sort of function as cultural critique—they’re basically personal essays discussing popular events and ideas in my life as seen through a feminist lens.

    With a project like this, it’s hard not to wonder if I’m offending someone. There are too many people out there with too many different views, and I know I’m not covering all of them, and I also know that I’m surely actively working against someone’s opinions.

    It’s been hard for me to balance this, just like you mention—do I sugarcoat it and take away its meaning? That’s probably not the move, because what’s the point of writing something if I’m going to distill it down until it’s not the point I even wanted to make.

    I think, and take this advice with a grain of salt, but I would give yourself permission to be offensive. And I don’t mean to say like, give yourself permission to be malicious or anything like that (of course), but if it’s worth writing about, then it’s worth writing about honestly and powerfully. It can be so hard to know what’s right here, but I’d say trust your gut and try to figure out what it is inside you that’s trying to censor, and whether or not you need to listen to it.

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