I think it was Robin who kindly gave me a book entitled ‘How to Write’ and sub-titled ‘All the skills you need to launch your writing career’. It was labelled ‘theguardian’ and therefore I rather doubt Robin has read it. You will not be surprised to learn that the subtitle has elements of the over-sell. Actually the book comprises the Guardian style guide, readily available on the internet, and a series of essays by people with books to promote, a bit of a swindle in fact; maybe publishing this affords the Grauniad valuable hands-on experience, the better to bemoan exploitative capitalism.
The Style Guide is interesting, and has some good stuff – but it’s turning me into a fascist, or at least someone with UKIP leanings. It’s just so unbearably PC, it makes me want to black up as a minstrel and set fire to the rain forest whilst singing the Horst Wessel song. Use “humankind” not “mankind”, a word that alienates half the world population from their own history.
It is simply so terrified of causing offence, following this guide would squeeze all the joy out of writing. Do not use “Aids victims” or “someone suffering from Aids”…, language that is crass, inaccurate and reinforces stigma. “People with Aids” (or “living with Aids”) is preferable. Really? One cannot associate a debilitating disease with suffering? I wonder what Hemingway would have made of all this.
There’s worse. The po-facedness is quite selective. It’s not OK to use “Calcutta” or “Bombay” – shameful reminders of empire where “Kolkata” and “Mumbai” are preferred by Delhi’s guardianista Keynesians – but “… next time someone says we should call Burma “Myanmar” because that’s what it calls itself, point out that Muammar Gadafy renamed Libya “The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya.””
Honestly, it’s hard enough to get any writing done aboard without worrying whether it’s offensive to use the words ‘Native Americans’ (not offensive) or ‘the mentally ill’ (offensive). So it’s probably best to indulge in some agaudente abuse (oops) ashore in Cascais and as a geriatric (oops) suffering from (oops) amnensia, allow myself to forget ever having read the Guardian Style Guide.