If you do a Google search on Ethics in Writing, you are likely to find a lot of articles on the “P” word – plagiarism. It seems that, in general, we writers like to hold one another accountable, and are ferociously protective of our own thoughts and ideas. Our works are, after all, our babies. But, I would like to carry this discussion of moral responsibility a bit further. To what degree, then, are we ethically bound to our readers?
We all know the first rule of writing is to consider your audience – we couch our words in a way that we think will be the most appealing to them. We want our readers to take in what we have to say. We want them to be moved, to be influenced in some way that is for the better, at least in our opinion. But, to be honest, much of our writing is about ourselves. It’s about what we want to say. What we want to sell. What we want to express, or what we want to change.
It can be tempting to get on our soapboxes, pushing our own agenda – especially when we’re hoping to persuade our reader. But, consider this. In taking in our words, the reader has literally invited us into his or her heart and mind. This is a great privilege and a great responsibility. Do not take advantage of this sacred trust. Let them come to their own conclusions and make their own decisions. Can we still write with passion? Absolutely! Can we still change the world? You know it! Can we still touch a life? Of course.
Just remember that our writing should present itself as an offering, not as a mandate. This is a prime value area of influence – write smart, write responsible.
Stay classy, my friends.