Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

January 6, 2020

 Did You Know Trigger Warnings Are Controversial?

Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

trigger warnings

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Trigger Warning:
A stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma.
~www.Dictionary.com

The distinction I make between a trigger warning and a content warning is that a content warning doesn’t involve content that triggers psychological or emotional harm. Some reviewers do not make a distinction between trigger warnings and content warnings. My trigger warnings usually consist of warnings about suicide, sexual assault, child endangerment, abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, etc. Whereas, content warnings usually consist of content like profanity, crass language, open door romance, excessive graphic violence, references to body image, etc.

The inclusion of Trigger Warnings and/or Content Warnings have been extensively debated among reviewers.

Spoilers: Last week, someone questioned one of my Instagram reviews in which I had included a TW (trigger warning). This person was concerned that the TW could be considered a spoiler. Well, yes, that is a definite con of a TW. Interestingly, the next person thanked me for the TW!

This is a topic about which I have a strong opinion, but I don’t think I’ve addressed my position in a formal post. Since you are reading my reviews, you might be curious about my stance.

Pros and Cons of Trigger Warnings:

PROs of Trigger Warnings:

  • Readers are alerted to sensitive content that might cause them psychological or emotional harm
  • Readers can make informed decisions
  • Readers are better prepared for difficult or triggering content

CONs of Trigger Warnings:

  • TWs might contain spoilers
  • TWs might give away an important plot point
  • TWs might ruin the ‘twist’ or the ending

What do you think?

Do you have concerns to add to the Pro and Con lists? At first glance and considering common sense, you might say the Cons outweigh the Pros. Please hear me out.

My Position:

I feel strongly that the pros outweigh the cons for this reason: I have come to the conclusion that a reader’s emotional and/or psychological well being is the most important consideration for me. Examples of important trigger warnings include suicide, sexual assault, death of a child, abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, etc. I hear frequently that a person who has experienced a traumatic event appreciates trigger warnings. Readers report to me that knowing ahead of time (1) helps them decide whether or not to read the book and (2) helps them deal better with it when it comes up in the story. I’ve had readers contact me to ask more specific details about a trigger warning that I’ve hesitated to put in the review for fear of revealing too much. Please feel comfortable in contacting a reviewer for more specific, additional information.

One example of a book that needs a trigger warning is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove is frequently referred to as curmudgeonly, quirky, and lovable….leaving readers completely unprepared that the early pages of the book involve Ove attempting to commit suicide. One reader I communicated with was devastated by the suicide attempts because she had recently lost her brother to suicide and opted to DNF the book. She was unhappy that reviews did not include a trigger warning. Hearing from her swayed my opinion on trigger warnings.

So, despite possible spoilers, I always provide trigger and content warnings. For myself, I have determined that the psychological and emotional well being of readers is my highest priority.

TL:DR ….. All readers may not appreciate spoilers, and even though trigger warnings might be spoilers, preventing distress is kind and tips the balance of the Pro/Con List.

I do announce when I’m about to disclose a trigger warning and have them labeled so that readers can skip that paragraph of my review. I think I’m also going to include the words “possible spoilers” in my trigger warning label. If you are a reader who is extremely concerned about a spoiler, I would encourage you to skip all reviews (and even the publisher’s summary) and read the book cold. Even the discussion of themes could be construed as spoilers.

Amanda at The Lexington Bookie is one example of a reviewer who always includes trigger warnings. She places them at the beginning of her reviews and indicates that her review may also include trigger warnings.

What Do You Think?

As readers do you mind or appreciate trigger warnings? As reviewers, do you include trigger warnings? Let’s respectfully discuss in the comments.

There are reviewers who feel strongly on either side of the discussion. I want to use this post to clearly state my position so that you are not surprised by the trigger warnings and content warnings in my reviews.

In this post, I’m not trying to persuade anyone to adopt my opinion or debate the pros and cons. I simply want to clearly state my opinion.



QOTD!

I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments about trigger warnings!



Shout Outs!

I deeply appreciate being nominated for blogging awards! It makes my nerdy blogging soul deliriously happy because I feel extremely encouraged! However, I need to admit that I have an awful track record at following through with Awards. I think I’ve managed to respond to only one or two. One of my New Year Resolutions is to do a better job at acknowledging the Awards! The following lovely bloggers have nominated me for awards and I appreciate their kind support!

A huge THANK YOU and SHOUT OUT to

Bookish Rantings for The Blogger Recognition Award

The Lexington Bookie for the Sunshine Blogger’s Award (Nominated me in April AND December! Thanks Amanda!)

Mani’s Book Corner for the Sunshine Blogger Award

Ashes Books and Bobs for the Sunshine Blogger Award

I Won’t Say I’m In Love With Reading for the Blogger Recognition Award

thank you

I know I’ve been nominated for others, but I can’t even find my notes to thank them. I can do better. I will do better!



ICYMI:

Most Memorable Reads of 2019

Winter 2019 TBR



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



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***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

45 thoughts on “Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

  1. I personally have no problem with trigger warnings, unless they reveal plot points. At a minimum, I think trigger warnings should be qualified as potentially containing spoilers BEFORE they are listed so people without trigger or content issues can skip that part if they choose.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Just yesterday had a chat with pal re books–and recalled I refused to read John Grisham’s A Time To Kill–because of the rape scene. Then a zillion years later, I discovered it was such a tiny portion in first part of story–that was a great book. I have two friends who always totally read the end of the books first—YIKES! I’d never do that. We are all so very different–and it’s all so very OKAY!

        Liked by 2 people

    • I spent time over the last few months weighing pros and cons! I felt prompted to address this in a post since I received a nicely worded criticism on instagram last week about my trigger warning for Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. I am going to modify my TW to note that it might include spoilers! Just another land mine in the blogging world as we put ourselves out there! 😂

      Like

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I appreciate the pros and cons list, and I appreciate the thought behind using trigger warnings. As someone who has experienced traumatic events and watches for those situations in books so I can time when I read them (ie not before bed so I can sleep well), I am thankful people consider others’ sensitivities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely love this post. This is something I feel torn about. For me, I wish books came with a rating system, much like in movies. It would be great if the publishers included a rating on the copyright page and that could serve as the trigger warning. I feel like this could take the burden from the reviewers’ hands and allow the authors and publishers to be responsible for the content. I think this would be especially helpful for me as a parent of young children, as I want to monitor what my children read without reading every book ahead of them.
    There are many books I’ve started only to learn the subject matter wasn’t what I was prepared for. It’s not something that bothers me too much, unless I’ve spent money on the book or was highly anticipating it. For me as a reviewer, I only discuss the content if it bothers me. I don’t like to routinely give trigger warnings because those differ for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting! You bring up some great points! A rating system like movies might be helpful! And yes…TWs can certainly be subjective! :::::sigh:::::: this is why the topic is so difficult!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Trigger warnings are something that I personally do not care for. I do think they are spoilers. Interestingly, I also lost a sibling to suicide and didn’t even think twice about the attempts in Ove. I do realize everyone is different and can respect that. I have always skipped book reviews that mention they contain spoilers, I know do the same for reviews that include trigger warnings. I feel like every thing is becoming a trigger warning. The back cover, book flap, or friend rec has always been enough for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting points! Certainly a lot to consider! They really are a type of spoiler and I think need to be clearly labeled. I’ve been mulling over my wording for them in the future! I usually put them at the end of a review so that readers can skip them if desired. Thanks for commenting! 👍😍

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely like trigger warnings, but for me content warnings are even more welcome. I can deal with most things that are considered triggers, but content, ie. too much strong language, open door sex, pedophilia, are absolute no-gos for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Billiant post! I personally believe there should be trigger/content warnings, I try to include them in my own reviews but always say beforehand that they may contain spoilers, leaving it up to the reader as to whether they read them or not. Particularly as some books are complete suprises for content, I have read a few eARC’s that on the surface appear sweet though a little heart-breaking only to be thrown into multiple traumatic events that could distress someone! Great discussion-definitely a big topic! 💜😊

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Although I respect the use of trigger warnings, I have never included them in any of my reviews. The few times that I’ve been tempted to use them, I realized that they would constitute spoilers for the book in question. I will not read reviews that states that they contain spoilers, and I think they can ruin the reading experience of potential readers. Like reading the last chapter first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s is a difficult dilemma Lynne! I try to make them as nonspecific as possible…..but still they hint at a spoiler. I love to mention themes but often that seems spoilerish too. Thanks for your input! 😍👍

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t need any trigger warnings but appreciate those that do so I’ll include them when the book’s synopsis doesn’t include that information. They definitely can be spoilerish so I never read them. I’ve found that those who need them, appreciate it. To others, I suggest they not read them.

    I’m not always good about remembering to make the statements but it’s always my intention. Thanks for your important post, Carol💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for contributing your thoughts Jonetta! I love hearing what others are doing or not doing! I think I’ll continue to include them but make sure they are clearly labeled and include a spoiler warning and in their own separated paragraph. Thanks again for sharing! 😍🙌

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Great post! Thank you for mentioning that the well-being of readers is more important than anything. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I always warn people about animal cruelty in books I read. It upsets me so much that it can ruin a book for me, and I would prefer to know before I begin!

    Liked by 1 person

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  19. Carol, you are one of my favorite bloggers and you deserve all the awards!! I also love this discussion- and thanks for the spotlight! I had a hard time differentiating content warnings from trigger warnings- especially because these days, we have to be more considerate of what could cause harm to readers. Things I may not consider a trigger may be one to somebody else. So I try to think of anything within each book that might upset someone. It may be a spoiler, but I’d rather the reader be prepared for the content that could be very upsetting. I’m with you- I think the pros out-weigh the cons. Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

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