Carla King interviews Alex Kapitan – The Radical Copyeditor – on how to edit for inclusivity to reach more readers
Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | July 19, 2023
“When I talk about liberation, what I mean is, freedom from violence. The whole goal of liberation is to eradicate all forms of violence and one of the ways we can do that is through how we use words. It has to be part of a larger practice. It’s not the only thing or the most important thing, but it is one of the ways in which we can create the world that we want to live in–is through how we use words.”
About Alex Kapitan
Alex Kapitan (no pronouns) is a trainer, speaker, consultant, editor, and activist who left the world of non-fiction book publishing to start Radical Copyeditor, an anti-oppressive language project. Alex draws on an eclectic background in the publishing industry, sexuality and gender education, and faith-based organizing to help people and organizations align their words with their values.
Nonfiction Authors Podcast: Alex Kapitan
Find the video podcast, show notes, links, quotes, and podcast transcript below.
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- Alex Kapitan on Instagram
- Alex Kapitan on Twitter
- Keynote Speech from PPN Conference: Conscious Communication and the Power of Language
In this episode…
- The spectrum of language and important definitions.
- An explanation of code switching.
- How nonfiction authors can draw the widest possible circle around their focus.
- Ways authors can gain more perspective and insight to create a work that reaches more readers.
- Ways nonfiction authors can build trust with their readers, especially when writing historical nonfiction.
[00:00:00] Carla King: Hello, and welcome to the Nonfiction Authors Podcast. I’m Carla King, your host, and before we start, I’d like to invite you to go to the Freebies tab at nonfictionauthorsassociation.com to check out our Free Reports. We developed these reports to help you figure out things like ISBNs, distribution, optimizing book sales on Amazon, generating book reviews, growing your email list, and we provide checklists on things like publishing and book launches.
Today we’re talking with Alex Kapitan–the Radical Copyeditor–about our language and writing and speech, and how to make sure you’re not unintentionally alienating your audience.
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And now I’m super happy to introduce our guest for today. Alex Kapitan (no pronouns) is a trainer, speaker, consultant, editor, and activist who left the world of nonfiction book publishing to start Radical Copyeditor, an anti-oppressive language project. Alex draws on an eclectic background in the publishing industry, sexuality and gender education, and faith-based organizing to help people and organizations align their words with their values, working with book publishers, academic journals, activist organizations, museums, healthcare providers, media companies, and all sorts of other folks who believe in the power of language to create positive change. Find out more about Alex at radicalcopyeditor.com. Welcome to the podcast, Alex.
[00:02:17] Alex Kapitan: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
[00:02:20] Carla King: Well, I’m glad we met at the PPN conference in Berkeley earlier this year, where you keynoted. And I was just fascinated by your talk. It was a great keynote talk with the audience of professional publishers, because I thought I knew–as an English Lit major with a degree in creative writing, and an editor–everything there was to know about language. It was so much fun to hear your research, your thoughts, your deep, deep knowledge about it.
So I’m going to ask you to use examples as much as we can–during this talk for nonfiction authors–about the importance of language. Why? And maybe why did you start to delve deeply into language? I saw you somewhere that you literally had to write yourself into existence.
[00:03:09] Alex Kapitan: Yes, absolutely. And for folks who are hearing about this–Carla gushing about my keynote–you can actually read my keynote [Conscious Communication and the Power of Language] on my blog now on radicalcopyeditor.com. So if you’re interested in checking that out, I decided to make it available for free to the public. It’s what I do. So you can check that out.
How I got into language–it’s so interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by words. I was an early reader, and my favorite book when I was three or four years old was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear [by Audry Wood, illustrated by Don Wood].
And I distinctly remember just being fascinated by the concept of being able to read, and books. And I memorized my favorite book so that I could read it, even though I couldn’t read yet. I just desperately wanted to be in the world of books. And I just knew somehow that that could open up all sorts of worlds for me–is being able to read, being able to navigate language this way. And it really did.
As somebody who was growing up as a queer person, a trans person, a non-binary person before the advent of social media, I didn’t have any models for me. And so being able to find myself in science fiction and fantasy and create whole worlds through words was a really meaningful thing as a kid.
And then I started to notice the ways in which words work–the ways in which they paint those pictures, and what’s under the surface and between the lines. So I was recently reflecting on my roots as a radical copyeditor, and I remembered writing this paper when I was probably in fourth or fifth grade.
It’s one of these bios of somebody famous and it’s 500 words long, and it’s the biggest paper you’ve ever written in your life. And I chose Olympia Brown– who was one of the first women to be ordained as a minister in the United States. And I was reading one of these ‘Made For Kids’ books about Olympia Brown, and I noticed–at the tender age of whatever I was–8, 9, 10–that whenever the author of this book talked about Olympia Brown, they called her ‘Olympia.’And whenever they talked about her husband, they called him ‘Brown.’ And even at that young age, I thought to myself, ‘That’s messed up.’ And those are the sorts of things I started to notice and started to just really pay attention to, in terms of the ways in which language helps to shape our world, and what gets communicated, and what gets hidden between the lines as it were.
[00:05:52] Carla King: And I think a lot of us, we don’t even realize–due to our upbringings, and our environment–what our speech and writing says about us and to others. We don’t even notice. And we’re trying to say something that we want to say and we’re saying it wrong, because we just don’t have this background that you do in language.
So there’s a whole spectrum of languages. You can research this on your website, but it’s really very subversive, violent, coded, unquestioned, minimizing, versus liberatory language. So I wondered if we could just go through all of those and make those definitions.
[00:06:32] Alex Kapitan: Yeah, totally. So this is foundational to my approach and my platform as a radical copyeditor. When I first started to hang out my shingle in this way, one of the first pieces of content I put out there was this post about the concept of language being a spectrum from violent to liberatory, and this idea that there’s this dominant myth out there that language is either bad or good.
It’s either violent or neutral and purely descriptive, but that’s not the way language works. There’s this whole spectrum of ways in which mainstream norms, cultural values, all sorts of things get embedded in language in ways that we’re usually just completely unaware of.
And so the spectrum that I lay out–that again, you can find on my website–starts with violent language. That’s the really easy to notice language. It’s slurs and hate speech, right? It’s very actively biased and hateful.
Then there’s coded language, which is what happens when violent language goes underground, right? This is the way in which–you see this a lot in politics. You see it in the dog whistle. You see it in phrases that are coded in particular ways, like disrespectful inner city kids, or traditional family values, that on their face might seem neutral, but those of us who are targeted by this language are really clear what’s actually being communicated, right?
Unquestioned language is the middle of the spectrum, and that’s the vast majority of language. It’s just everyday words that carry unquestioned norms, values, assumptions, expectations. They all just get baked in. One of the examples I often give is the ways that the word white is often used to describe positive concepts, and the word black or darkness is often used to describe negative concepts. This might seem like not that big of a deal, but there’s been research that shows that associating darkness with negativity actually translates to associating darker skinned people with criminality. So these are the sorts of things that are just baked into our everyday world through the everyday words and language that people use around us. And we don’t necessarily understand what’s even being communicated some of the times, when it comes to this stuff.
Minimizing language is the next place on the spectrum. And minimizing language is like the backhanded compliment, right? It’s saying things like, ‘Oh, you’re so articulate.’ Right? Which implies that it’s a surprise that someone who looks like you or has your particular set of identities would be articulate. Minimizing language is All Lives Matter, right? All Lives Matter is this well-intentioned, most of the time, but it’s actually in opposition to Black Lives Matter, which is trying to make a very particular point around–we all know that white lives matter. This is not something that is up for debate. This is not something that we need to actively call attention to. So being able to call attention to the folks who need to have their humanity affirmed due to oppression–and trying to negate that or minimize that–isn’t ultimately a helpful thing. Those are some examples of how minimizing language shows up.
And then that final end of the spectrum is liberatory language, which is the language that I strive to practice and help manifest in the world. And when I talk about liberation, what I mean is, freedom from violence. The whole goal of liberation is to eradicate all forms of violence and one of the ways we can do that is through how we use words. It has to be part of a larger practice. It’s not the only thing or the most important thing, but it is one of the ways in which we can create the world that we want to live in–is through how we use words. So that’s the spectrum.
[00:10:25] Carla King: Right. The author has a very real responsibility to learn these things that you’re talking about. I’m glad that it’s coming to the forefront– what you were just talking about–appropriation of Black Lives Matter. All of a sudden you’ve got stickers everywhere with Everything Matters, right? That’s a cultural appropriation. That’s not okay, but people don’t realize that.
[00:10:45] Alex Kapitan: Well, and I think that that’s the important thing–is that there’s nothing wrong with the impulse to want to, from your own perspective, use language in this positive way, without being aware of how that might be perceived, how that might actually be experienced by all kinds of different people.
And part of that–it’s not a personal failing–we are absolutely taught, particularly in the United States and similar countries, that there is a one right way to use words. And a lot of us–particularly people of the boomer generation–there’s a whole period of time in which this was very forcibly taught in schools, to the degree that people were harshly punished for not conforming to standard English. Obviously, that fell most hurtfully on children of color, indigenous children, folks who were actually punished and criminalized for speaking their native languages. Not to mention things like Black English and AAVE [African American Vernacular English] –that’s ways in which conformity was so crucial to actually surviving public school or school of all.
So those are the sorts of things that are ingrained in us of thinking, ‘There are these rules when it comes to words, and if we follow the rules, then we’ll be okay. We’ll be able to get a job. We’ll be able to communicate effectively. We’ll be able to get published as an author.’ All sorts of things.
[00:12:12] Carla King: And English is such a weird language, and it changes all the time. Oh my gosh. And I did want to point out, too–as a reference–I interviewed George Passawe. He wrote a book, last year, on code switching. Yes. And that just came to my mind. Can you maybe explain that in this context?
[00:12:28] Alex Kapitan: Code switching is a great example of how this plays out. Code switching is really just the concept of communicating in slightly different ways depending on who you’re talking to–the context that you’re in. It comes up a lot when we’re talking about people who are navigating multiple cultural realities–whether that’s race, ethnicity, nationality. Like if you grow up with a very thick accent–particularly if it is an accent that carries a negative value judgment in the larger world, or is stigmatized in the larger world, like a southern accent, like a very thick Jewish accent. There’s a lot of ways in which you might slip into that accent when you’re talking with your family. And then when you talk to your boss, you might use a completely different way of talking because there’s that negative value judgment–that stigma that has been attached to the authentic way that you express yourself and the way that you communicate. And that’s just one example. There’s so many examples of this. Actually, it’s perfectly reasonable to have lots of different people speaking in lots of different ways, and be curious about that instead of trying to make everyone conform to a single best norm.
One of the greats in this area is Toni Morrison, because Toni Morrison refused to change how she wrote and who she wrote for. She was very, very clear and very explicit that she was writing about and to Black people, because those were people, right? So the word person, the word people in the mainstream culture– the assumption is that means a white person. The word American–the assumption is–you have a particular picture in your head of who that is. What identities that person holds. And [Toni Morrison] said, “My people are people. I’m gonna write for people.” Right? And obviously not being as eloquent as she was–this is very paraphrased. But she used language in a way that a lot of folks had been told they couldn’t, if they wanted to be a published author, right? And she really changed the entire game when it came to that kind of thing.
Also, not only because she was an author, but because she was an editor and she was signing up other Black women authors and other other authors who were using language in ways that were authentic to their cultural reality. And that really resonated with all sorts of people who had never actually seen themselves or heard their language reflected back to them from the pages of a book before in that particular way, right?
[00:15:06] Carla King: She wasn’t “whitewashing” her language.
[00:15:09] Alex Kapitan: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah.
[00:15:12] Carla King: Yeah. It’s interesting because memoirists can get away with that, because you’re talking about your own experience. And authors–and how we write–we may know or not know what we’re actually saying, until we have somebody like you look over our work. And I’m thinking about the business, and technology, and sports, and prescriptive nonfiction authors who are writing and they’re not seeing everybody whose career, life, their how-to book affects. How do you approach that from an editor’s point of view? And how can you maybe advise authors to look at your writing with that eye toward editing for–what do you want to call it?
[00:15:58] Alex Kapitan: Drawing the widest possible circle around your focus.
[00:16:00] Carla King: Without being generic and flat.
[00:16:03] Alex Kapitan: I think this is a really good frame. Particularly for folks who haven’t really been put in a position of questioning–the perspective that you bring, your worldview. I mean, I’m someone who is US born and raised. I’m white, I’m college educated, and I talk a lot about the fact that because of those things, I’ve actually 100% internalized the idea that US white academic norms are best. And not only are those norms best–and that perspective and that worldview best–but because I fit into that to a certain degree, My ideas are the best, right? But a), that’s not true, right? Absolutely not. I have some good ideas, but I certainly don’t have the best ideas all the time. And there’s a lot of better ideas out there.
But also that is a form of flatness. That is a form of genericness. If we’re taking this idea that what works for non-disabled, wealthy, white, CIS straight men who are US citizens and speak English as a first language–if we think that what works for that most valued by our dominant culture, constellation of identities, will work for everyone, that’s a problem because it clearly doesn’t, right? So if you’re writing in a genre of wanting to provide guidance, of wanting to help folks navigate particular fields, or ways of doing things, and you’re not questioning, “What frame am I bringing to this? What perspective am I bringing? What worldview am I bringing, based on my own lived experience, my own constellation of identities and experiences that are valued and devalued by our larger culture?” Then you are gonna end up falling into this idea that what works for me will work for everyone else. And that’s not helpful, because what works for me doesn’t work for everybody else.
And in order to interrupt that, the first thing you need to be able to do is practice some cultural humility around being aware of the world view that you’re bringing, and being aware that dominant perspectives are seen as universal, and neutral, and objective by our wider culture. And non-dominant, marginalized perspectives are not. Are seen as marginal, and devalued. And that’s not worthwhile. So that’s something to be aware of from the go is “What am I bringing relative to that? And how can I be aware of that?”
And then the second thing is to really expand your own circle so that you are in relationship with–and reading, and interacting with, and taking in content from– people of all sorts of different perspectives and worldviews, regardless of your own, right? Because that’s the way that you can start to be like, “Oh, wow, I never would’ve thought about this particular thing from the perspective of someone who was an immigrant to this country, or from the perspective of somebody who lived through the AIDS crisis.” And now there’s so many different ways in which, when you expand your perspective that way, it helps you think more broadly about what works for me, or what makes sense to me, or what language resonates with me, versus how this might actually play out for somebody else. Which is really important for anyone who’s trying to write to a wider audience.
[00:19:41] Carla King: It is. So is it just as easy as reading more diverse books of authors in your genre? Is it as easy as that? What else?
[00:19:48] Alex Kapitan: That’s definitely the first really good thing to do, and I think it can make a huge difference. And certainly, if you’re in a particular field, reading as much as you can, interacting at conferences–if that’s a thing for you–people within your field who bring different perspectives than you do, and different identities than you do, is huge.
And then to level up from there, other things that you can do are–you can seek out continuing education in really specific ways when it comes to things like anti-oppression, anti-racism. Maybe you’ve never really thought about accessibility and disability stuff related to your particular area of expertise.
When you are coming from a place of authentic desire for connection and humility around what you are bringing to that interaction, and joy around the ways in which diversity enriches our world, it no longer has to be this, “Oh no! I might get something wrong. I might say something wrong,” kind of thing.
[00:20:48] Carla King: There is that very real, real fear, isn’t there?
[00:20:50] Alex Kapitan: And again, it’s not a character flaw, it’s not a personal failing. This is a function of how oppression operates. It keeps us out of relationship. It keeps us separate from each other. So it’s actually a really amazing thing to be like, “No, I’m taking power back. I’m going to go up to that person who I’m afraid I might offend, and be really mindful of how I’m interacting with them. But don’t let it stop me from trying to make a connection with people who I’ve been taught aren’t like me.” You know what I mean?
[00:21:26] Carla King: Right, language–it does provide a division. I talked with Caterina Rivera, the Blindish Latina, about words and phrases that we say every day–people saying, falling on deaf ears, or blindsided, or, I’m a little bit OCD. And she’s like, “That’s not okay.” What is your stake there?
[00:21:48] Alex Kapitan: Oh, 100%. The thing for me is that I see a lot of folks trying to find the correct approach. I hear people saying things like, “Oh no, it’s not okay to say this word anymore or that word, and just tell me the right words to use.” And sometimes when it comes to the language around disability and ability, I see people falling into that temptation, which makes a lot of sense.
But the truth is, this isn’t about a list of good and bad words. This is about the ways in which everyday language accumulates to communicate certain things about certain bodies, right? So if you think about it, it’s very easy to identify all of the ways in which the language of disability is used to communicate negativity, figuratively. All over the place. Like falling on deaf ears, blind to the truth, crippled by poverty, paralyzed, by fear. These are the sorts of ways in which the language of disability gets used figuratively for negative concepts constantly. The language of ability gets used figuratively for positive concepts. Like take a step in the right direction, see the light–the ways in which our language is just rife with this. What that tells us is a lot about the ways in which our larger culture that we’re moving through values and devalues human beings.
So it’s not a matter of just eradicating certain words. It’s a matter of really changing our mindsets and thinking through, “Oh right. OCD is an actual medical diagnosis and it’s a real experience that people have. I probably shouldn’t use it as this lighthearted, flippant joke, because that actually has a real impact on human beings.”
And there are some things like single blind versus double blind peer review. Right? So there’s a lot of terms out there like that, where there isn’t a great replacement, and it’s not that useful to obsess over the specifics of the word choice. It’s much better to be thinking about the whole picture. And we don’t ever have to say it fell on deaf ears. There’s no need. We can use different language that actually ends up being more creative, a lot of the time. For those of us who are creative writers, it can be richer when we find different figurative metaphors than the ones that just come to hand immediately. But also, it’s about finding ways to use the language of disability in positive ways sometimes, or use the language of ability in negative ways. Sometimes the light can be burning, not blinding. And sometimes not being able to see can be a positive thing, right? So there’s ways in which we can start to subvert all of that if we are keeping in mind the whole picture instead of just hyper-focusing on word choice. Does that make sense?
[00:24:37] Carla King: It totally makes sense. And this is the thing–it takes vigilance. Ever since I met you, I keep noticing, “Oh my gosh. Is that okay?” I think one of the most popular posts you had–or the ones with the most engagement–was to capitalize white or not, because Black is capitalized and Native American is capitalized. And so I’m seeing that lot. And why don’t we just talk about that one in particular?
[00:25:02] Alex Kapitan: Sure, sure. That’s a really good example, because what happened was–Black has been capitalized for decades and decades by Black people and by Black-led media and presses. And so folks who are rooted in anti-racism, and in deep relationship with Black folks–regardless of their own identity–also capitalized Black.
So you saw this situation where this was just a common practice amongst people who are rooted in that principle of anti-racism and that practice. And the rest of the mainstream publishing industry had mostly an attitude of ‘consistency.’ So if you were following most style guides like AP or Chicago, you would use a lower case.
Actually, Chicago was a little bit more context specific, but its default was lowercase, all around, all colors, is basically what those sorts of style guides say. And then AP said uppercase all the time, so it depended, right? So we already are seeing some inconsistency within the larger world of how to use English in terms of what to do there.
And then, when you started to see some real new energy around how to pay attention differently to the ways that racism shows up in subtle ways in our everyday life–particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s murder–there were a lot of folks out there who started going, “Hey, can we please just capitalize Black already? Because it’s been a long time that this has been a thing.” And it’s a cultural identity that is shared by a group of people, and that is generally the benchmark for capitalizing a term is–this is a shared cultural identity on the level of something like Irish, Chinese, Indian. These are country-based identities that Black people often don’t have access to because of the ways that slavery divorced people from their ancestry. And there were actual publications out there–I think there was a particular newspaper that, I can’t remember–it was a southern newspaper, that the editor of the newspaper said, “We can’t do that, because it might lead to equality. We’re not gonna capitalize the N [W. E. B. Du Bois].” So that tells you the power of this, right? This isn’t semantics. People are really reacting to this in this very particular way.
So circa 2018, 2019, you see a lot of upsurge. And then 2020, a lot more people start going, “Let’s go ahead and just capitalize the B already.” And that meant a whole lot of other people went, “Wait, oh no. What do we do about white?” Because there’d been such a push for so long to respect the ways in which the Black-led press capitalized this word, and the meaning that held for Black people.
I wasn’t necessarily talking with individuals, but on an organizational level, if you are a press or a newsroom that has been lower-casing Black for years and years, and then you suddenly start upper-casing Black and white, that tells me that you’re more interested in this perception of fairness, right? And consistency. And you don’t really understand the point of doing this. Because there are good reasons for upper-casing white. Some people say it makes white people have to really grapple with their identity in a different kind of way when they see [White] in upper case, that kind of thing. I think we can have a more nuanced conversation about it if we’ve had a nuanced perspective on this for some time, versus let “Just tell me the right thing to do,” and, “Okay, we’re just gonna do the same thing for everybody,” because that, to me, doesn’t really speak to an authentic engagement with the topic at hand.
And the other piece of this for me–and the reason why I uppercase Black and I lowercase white personally as a personal practice–is because what I’ve experienced, in my own life, is that people who use Black with an uppercase B are folks who are rooted in anti-racism. And people who use uppercase B and uppercase W tend to be people using AP style, and trying to be consistent. And people who use uppercase W and lowercase B are white supremacists.
So to me, when I see an uppercase W, I associate that with white supremacy, because of the circles that I move through. That could shift, that could change for me, depending on how we collectively navigate a world in which capital B, Black is now the norm instead of the outlier. But for now, for me, that history of capital B, Black, capital W white, means anti-racism and lowercase B, Black and uppercase W White means white supremacy, informs my choice, informs why I do what I do. So that’s a long answer because it’s a nuanced, complicated topic, but hopefully that’s helpful.
[00:30:04] Carla King: No, it is. And it does take nuance and deep thinking, and I appreciate your explanation of it. And what are the consequences? The consequences are terrible reviews of your book, [true] of alienating your audience[Yes], of being accused of being a supremacist when you don’t wanna be right? That kind of thing.
[00:30:23] Alex Kapitan: When you’re an author–particularly when you’re a nonfiction author–there is no perfect choice. There is no obvious, objective way to use words when we’re talking about identity, and particularly when we’re talking about things related to oppression, related to power and privilege.
So instead of trying to search for the best way to use words, or the perfect set of terms or practices, it’s much better to actually just be transparent about that with your audience. So one of the things that worked–that I think I respect the most–is when authors have a little note at the beginning of their book, or perhaps they have a practice of using footnotes throughout the book that says, “Here’s why I made the choice I made.” Because that builds trust with the reader and it actually shows your work. But when it comes to things around identity, sometimes we freeze up around it. And it’s better to just be real and to say, “This was a hard choice,” or, “This was what I was thinking about,” or, “This is what these words mean to me. Your mileage may vary.”
It actually helps your book be more evergreen, more relevant for longer. Because the ways that language can shift, especially language around identity–it feels like it is shifting a lot and very quickly. That actually helps the future reader not dismiss you because your book from five years ago couldn’t possibly anticipate language trends, right?
[00:31:49] Carla King: Like, not editing Mark Twain. Just putting a preface there.
[00:31:52] Alex Kapitan: That matters. It matters. You don’t want to go back and start changing people’s words because it doesn’t make sense. Just like we were just talking about with W. E. B. Du Bois arguing for, capitalizing the N in Negro. That is the right word, in his historical context. And you don’t wanna change that.
[00:32:10] Carla King: I know, as a tech writer in Silicon Valley in the eighties, I was fighting the default white “he” in the tech manuals. And it was a very frustrating thing that directly affected me [as a female]. So that’s why I was surprised to learn so much from your talk. And I lost–I don’t want to say lost–I researched about half a day on your website. It’s kind of, you dive in–and I hope you do write a book one day because I want it–to all of these different topics. And as a memoirist and a how-to book writer, I am a research junkie and I appreciate that extra layer of deep thinking about how I feel and how I want to relay my message to the world better, and to more people. So again, thank you. Thank you for everything that you do.
[00:33:03] Alex Kapitan: You’re very welcome. I really take seriously the truth that–those of us who work with words, it’s word craft, right? It is actually a craft, and you have to hone your craft. You have to practice it. You have to continually stay on top of it. It’s so easy, particularly today when there’s so many sound bites, and tweets, and everything has to be short. And speaking of Mark Twain, I think he was the one who once said, I don’t have time to be brief, right? [Yes.]
Because word craft is serious. And whenever you encounter someone who is that skilled–to not just reach for the easy words, but to really dig into, what do I want to paint here? What picture do I want to create in my reader’s mind’s eye? And who am I really talking about? And what am I really getting at here?” That level of word craft is such a beautiful art. And I think conscious language is just a piece of that. And it’s beautiful. It’s just joyful when we can do it well.
[00:34:04] Carla King: It is, thank you. And that’s why we depend on our editors. So a lot of editors are listening to this as well, I’m sure with great interest. And some people think you just need a proofreader, but no, this is the work of an editor.
[00:34:20] Alex Kapitan: Thank you.
[00:34:22] Carla King: Thank you, Alex. And thank you to our nonfiction author, listeners, and the editors and other professionals who help you succeed. Remember, keep writing and publishing. The world needs your experience and your expertise. Until next week, thank you very much.
Quotes from our guest
“One of the first pieces of content I put out there was this post about the concept of language being a spectrum from violent to liberatory, and this idea that there’s this dominant myth out there that language is either bad or good. It’s either violent or neutral and purely descriptive, but that’s not the way language works. There’s this whole spectrum of ways in which mainstream norms, cultural values, all sorts of things get embedded in language in ways that we’re usually just completely unaware of.”
“And when I talk about liberation, what I mean is, freedom from violence. The whole goal of liberation is to eradicate all forms of violence and one of the ways we can do that is through how we use words. It has to be part of a larger practice. It’s not the only thing or the most important thing, but it is one of the ways in which we can create the world that we want to live in–is through how we use words.”
“So if you’re writing in a genre of wanting to provide guidance, of wanting to help folks navigate particular fields, or ways of doing things, and you’re not questioning, “What frame am I bringing to this? What perspective am I bringing? What worldview am I bringing, based on my own lived experience, my own constellation of identities and experiences that are valued and devalued by our larger culture?” Then you are gonna end up falling into this idea that what works for me will work for everyone else. And that’s not helpful, because what works for me doesn’t work for everybody else. And in order to interrupt that, the first thing you need to be able to do is practice some cultural humility around being aware of the world view that you’re bringing and being aware that dominant perspectives are seen as universal and neutral and objective by our wider culture and non-dominant, marginalized perspectives are seen as marginal and devalued and you know that that’s not worthwhile. So that’s something to be aware of from the go is how, what am I bringing relative to that and how can I be aware of that?”
“When you are coming from a place of authentic desire for connection and humility around what you are bringing to that interaction, and joy around the ways in which diversity enriches our world, it no longer has to be this, “Oh no! I might get something wrong. I might say something wrong,” kind of thing.”
“This isn’t about a list of good and bad words. This is about the ways in which everyday language accumulates to communicate certain things about certain bodies.”