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Content Warning Guidelines
There are a wide variety of topics that can cause unnecessary harm to people, inducing negative feelings, anxiety, or trauma. The goal of Content Warnings or Trigger Warnings is to allow the audience to prepare themselves, or if they choose to, avoid the topic completely.
What is the difference between a Content Warning and a Trigger Warning
Content warnings and trigger warnings are sometimes used interchangeably to warn the reader/user when a topic that may cause an undesirable feeling or reaction. We opt to use content warning as trigger warning is more specific (and makes the assumption that the reader/user will be triggered).
When to give a Content Warning
Any time that you discuss a topic that you believe may cause a negative reaction for anyone, at any scale, then it would be best to give a content warning. It is best to try and think objectively about this, rather then just through the spectrum of your own personal experience and triggers.
To help with this, definitions on Self Defined will advise you when we recommend that you give a content warning. If you are ever in doubt though, we would recommend to side on deciding to give a warning rather than not.
How to give a Content Warning
There are two standardised ways of giving a content warning in writing:
- Content Warning: [topic or topics]
- CW: [topic or topics]
We would recommend that wherever possible you choose the first full text example. This will ensure that people who may not be familiar with the acronym of CW will still fully understand. In the case of media such as video, it is vital that it is given in a way that everyone will be able to access it, including through audio and visual cues.
When describing the topics, you want to ensure that you give someone the opportunity to decide whether to continue, but be careful not to describe in a way that the content warning itself could also be traumatic when read.
Where to give a Content Warning
In order to give someone a chance to decide to engage with a possibly distressing topic or not, a content warning should be given at the earliest possible opportunity.
Examples of where you can do this are:
- Articles under the byline, before content
- Videos (with proper audio descriptions)
- Photographs (with proper alt text)
- Podcasts (before topic, in transcript)
- Books (introductory page, summary)
- Conference talks/webinars (introduction)
- Start of social media posts including this topic
- Social media posts with a link to content including this topic
Responding to feedback
Even taking this on board, someone may feed back to you saying that your content caused them a negative reaction. If this happens, please wherever possible amend your content warning as possible. The goal of content warnings is to reduce as much harm as possible, and it's never too late to start.