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Drawing the line in the sands of writing

Updated on April 8, 2012

Hold The Line

Line in the sand
Line in the sand
Joking and Humor can be good
Joking and Humor can be good

Where do you draw the line?

It is sometimes asked by writers; especially those starting out, “Where does a writer draw the line with regard to joking?”

Some writers pull no punches and will joke about anything; as obnoxious or offensive as it might be. This can cross all genres of writing from poetry, fiction, short story or in journalism even a news or sports story.

Still, other writers will not joke about anything; not even the slight use of levity or the proverbial “poetic license” in their writing, leaving the reader with an often boring experience and never concluding the author’s work.

Each writer has to decide where that line is; where will they not cross the line in turning their topic into a frivolous joke.

Many writers, especially in journalism have had to learn the hard way and as a result seen their careers completely collapse or turn in a direction they never intended.

For me, I draw the line on faith, relationship commitment, as well as mental and medical health matters.

Regardless if it is in relationship to one’s religious beliefs or marital and partnership commitments; these are very personal areas for people and should never be joked about.

I also draw the line when it comes to mental and medical health concerns; these are no laughing matter. They are very personal matters, so writers should be cautious in utilizing humor in these areas; although as a psychologist/counselor I will be the first to admit that sometimes, the use of "levity" can be a good thing in working with patients.

Many people with medical or mental disorders often joke about themselves to others in order to allow those around them to feel more at ease but that doesn't give license to others to make the jokes.

As an epileptic, I have often joked about my condition when first meeting people in the unfortunate possibility I might have a seizure in front of them.

I have also used slight humor here in Hubs and other blogs where I write about my own condition to make a specific point. I would not however, joke about anyone else's medical or mental condition; that would be insensitive and distasteful.

The same is true for writing. We must be very careful not to cross the proverbial line when dealing with certain topics which might otherwise touch someone's "sunburn sensitive" area of life and increase their pain. Nobody wants or enjoys pain.

The “sunburn sensitive” areas of life are exactly like the actual sunburn sensitive area of our bodies when we have been over exposed to the sun or failed to use a sun screen. The pain can be so severe that you barely touch it. You just want to scream and you definitely don’t want someone else getting close to you. It takes time to heal and sometimes the healing can be longer than we like.

Sunburn sensitive areas
Sunburn sensitive areas

Joking and writing poll

Do you draw the line in certain areas utilizing humor when you write?

See results

Sunburn sensitive areas of life

Psychologically “sunburn sensitive” areas of our society are many and the writer should always be aware of these areas when beginning his or her work.

There are some writers who obviously make their living with shock much like many of the “shock jock” radio talk show host. They “stir the proverbial pot” in order to gain readership; this includes authors, poets and journalist alike.

With the institution of the blog (and nearly everybody has one these days), it seems this “crossing the line” syndrome has become an easy way for those with either an agenda or ideology, to attack others. They often utilize humor or jokes to further degrade their targeted subjects for personal defamation and/or degradation.

Since the courts are very hands off with regards to journalism (and writing of almost every other area as well) via the First Amendment and free speech (and rightfully so), there is seldom, little anyone can do when attacked. This is even more so when it comes to internet blogging.

If we who value free speech and the allowance to write what we want and are passionate about, we must decide for ourselves where to draw the line in the sand of our writing.

Joking and humor are wonderful tools of writing and we all need to laugh allot more because as we all know, "laughter is the best medicine". However, we must be sensitive to the feelings of others so that our laughter does not become their pain.


©Copyright 2012 by Dr. Lee Outlaw, Lee W. Outlaw III and Drtruthman. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used for re-distribution, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dr. Lee Outlaw, Lee W. Outlaw III and Drtruthman with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All rights reserved. Any violation or infringement of this copyright notice will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


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    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Dr. Lee...i had to read this again...i wish we all had compassion for others..really cared about each others feelings...thank you again for another great hub...God bless you in all you do....debbie

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

      A very good Hub. I enjoyed reading your message. Well said. Thank you.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A very interesting read. I agree that humour should never be used to attack others. However it is often good to laugh at something that happened to oneslf or with a friend that was once very painful. It shows us that we have the ability to 'get over' those things, the pain. To be able to laugh and joke about it at some future point is medicine in itself.

      But yes a line has to be drawn when writing (or speaking) about other people.

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Thank you Audrey. I do appreciate the read and comment and I do agree. Lee

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Thanks for stopping by SusieQ. I appreciate the read and comment and voting up. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Lee

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Thanks Michele, I thank you for reading and commenting. You are so right. You never know. Lee

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      As always, thanks so much Debbie for your read and comment and vote. Appreciate it so much. Lee

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Thanks Sparlea, I always appreciate you stopping by, reading and commenting. Lee

    • Drtruthman profile image

      Drtruthman 5 years ago from Harlingen, Texas

      Thanks Megni, I appreciate the comment. Lee

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Drawing the line for ourselves is so important--it defines who we are--excellent hub!

    • profile image

      SusieQ42 5 years ago

      Excellent hub, Dr. Truthman. I have to admit "I'm guilty" when it comes to joking about the many medical disorders that my neighbor has. Poor girl, she really does have some illnesses, but she can pick them up and put them down as she sees fit. Therefore, I have termed her a hypochondriac. Guess I better quit, huh? Or in other words, "draw the line." Voted up and interesting. Your friend and fellow hubber, Susieq42

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Lee, this is a wonderful hub, it may even help someone who is having trouble talking about his or her problems. Thank you for writing this hub. Maybe you helped someone today. Of course you will never know it, but maybe you did.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this is very good topic and so very truthful. Dr. Lee so glad you wrote on this I have seen a few things that I couldn't even comment on very offensive .. always great hubs.. voted up


    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Drtruthman: Voted up, truthful and interesting. Thank you for the reminder about being diplomatic with regard to these sensitive areas. A very good hub and a topic I would not have thought of. You made some excellent points. Blessings, Sparklea :)

    • profile image

      Megni 5 years ago

      Great ideas. Compassion for others is certainly a good thing.

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