Aspiring writers are admonished from using rote expression. Sometimes this triggers tricky questions even for experienced writers. Recently it was noticed our website described on-campus tours as “walking tours.” That word choice wasn’t made to belittle those who roll, but it was unnecessarily exclusionary. The fix was simple. Remove “walking.” No meaning sacrificed.
I encountered a tougher call when promoting The College Tour TV show (which I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out). Initially, I described it as “the most personal college tour you’ve ever seen.” A coworker suggested I change “seen” to “experienced” because that would be more inclusive. This seemingly innocuous suggestion unleashed a slew of follow-up questions in my mind. I had already used “experience” in an adjacent sentence and wanted to avoid repetition.
Must I sacrifice aesthetics? Find another synonym? Retool the paragraph to avoid the problem? Perhaps most crucially: one can fully experience a campus tour without walking, but you can’t fully experience a TV show as most people do without watching. Is it improper or unkind to unsighted people for me to acknowledge that watching happens?
In this case, I decided the best compromise was not to banish sight-oriented words, but to incorporate a full range of experiences such as “hearing,” “thinking” and “feeling” in the piece. We can’t please everyone all the time, but I am proud to work among people who care deeply about getting it right, even when it gets complicated.