Trigger warnings: a how to guide

If you have a technical problem or a question about the site, ask here. The admin team will also post announcements here - so check in occasionally!
User avatar
The_Other_Alice
Posts: 2369
Joined: Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:07 pm
Pronouns: she, her
Gender: female
Location: Cambridge, UK

Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by The_Other_Alice »

Trigger warnings: they’re darn useful. At least, they are when they’re used correctly. This is a quick guide to what to warn for and how to warn. I’ve used the topic of ‘adorable bunnies’ as a stand-in for triggering topics where I can, to try and avoid people having to read a triggering word over and over again.

What should I warn for?

There’s no hard and fast rule here, I’m afraid. A few topics should always be warned for: rape, suicide, and the use of slurs being prime examples. As a guide, if you think that the topic is likely to cause upset or trigger someone, please warn. Trigger warnings allow people to take control and to decide for themselves what they do and don’t want to see. Covering up triggering topics makes this a safer space for those with triggers.

While I encourage you to err on the side of caution with your trigger warnings, there are some things you don’t need to warn for. You don’t need to trigger warn for use of a word, and you shouldn’t cover up only one word (unless said word is a slur. But really, do you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to include it then?). You do need to warn for a description, or lengthy discussion. So you don’t need to cover up a mention of adorable bunnies, but if you’re talking about their fuzzy tails and how soft their ears are, you do.

How should I warn?

There are four golden rules here:

1) Describe what’s behind the warning. Don’t just cover things up – say what you’re covering.

2) Don’t just cover one or two words. This is rarely useful. Either cover the whole discussion, or, if you’re just mentioning adorable bunnies, don’t cover it at all.

3) If your whole thread is about a subject, note that in the thread title. This allows people to avoid a thread hopping with adorable bunnies, and avoids people in the thread having to cover essentially everything.

4) Don’t use abbreviations in your warnings. Not everyone knows AB stands for adorable bunnies!

5) Bear in mind different threads will have slightly different standards. In the thread about adorable bunnies, you don’t need to warn for a description of their cute little toes. In a thread about phobias of small adorable animals, you definitely do. Be sensitive to context.

Ideally, trigger warnings should be formatted like this:


(TW: adorable bunnies) My friend owns some adorable bunnies, and they fill me with joy! They have long soft fur and little wiggly noses, and love cuddles.

Here, we’ve got a clear description of what’s behind the warning, and all the information about that triggering subject is hidden.

If you make a post and realize that it needed warnings, or see a post that needs them, please report it. A second ‘how to’ post on reports is coming soon!

If you have any questions about trigger warnings, please feel free to ask us in this thread. Lots of other people will probably be wondering too, and this way we can build a resource thread if anyone has questions in the future.

Also, have an adorable bunny:


Logical Timber
Posts: 712
Joined: Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:23 pm

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by Logical Timber »

Thank you, this is useful! And (tw: fluffy bunnies) fluffy bunnies are awesome!

tobyleaf
Posts: 712
Joined: Tue Oct 29, 2013 2:51 am
Pronouns: They/them
Gender: Non binary
Location: Yorkshire

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by tobyleaf »

I really struggle with this one. I always put as little detail on triggering stuff as possible anyway but then I feel like I should cover any reference to it just because in some cases just seeing the word in the conversation is enough to trigger, but then I don't know how to do a description and it gets really convoluted:

I end up kind of going: tw small creatures that are cute fluffy bunnies, but when the fluffy bunnies are really bad things I'm not sure what else to do.
There may be typos as I mostly write here from my phone.

Tim
Posts: 41
Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 1:32 pm
Pronouns: he, him
Gender: cis male

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by Tim »

I meant to reply to this thread but couldn't find it on my phone. I wound up posting here instead, sorry:
A question about trigger warnings that might be pertinent here: Suppose I'm talking about a triggering thing without directly referring to it. For example:

The other day, I was enjoying looking at a bunny but then a mean person said "You shouldn't be looking at bunnies, you [anti-fluffy-bunnyist slur]."

If I want to refer to a triggering thing such as a slur, but don't actually type the word (hiding it with a euphemism or approximation as I've done in that example), should I put a TW on it or not? I ask because I'm writing a post about people saying mean things on an unrelated forum, and was planning to be a little more specific than "people are being mean" without going into a lot of details.

User avatar
carbonatedwit
Posts: 1720
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:27 am
Pronouns: she/her

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by carbonatedwit »

As people said in that thread, typing out [anti-fluffy-bunnyist slur] is just fine, and I wouldn't put a TW on it.

Tobyleaf, here is a more involved and unpleasant example:
So I was out in the woods one day and I saw (tw animal violence) an owl swoop down and catch a fluffy bunny! I was surprised so I wandered over, and actually (tw graphic description of bunnies)it was a whole warren of bunnies, with their little beady eyes and fluffy tails, running around all fluffy and with their ears sticking out. But after a moment it got quiet and then I saw (tw bunny, death, gore) where the owl hadn't actually eaten all the bunny, just, like, half, and it was lying there all bloody.

Ever since then I've had nightmares (tw nightmare, bunny, zombie) where a whole warren of half-eaten zombie bunnies are chasing me. It's really messing with my sleep, but whenever I tell anyone, they just laugh and start making jokes, about are they made from chocolate. NO, they are not, as my THERAPIST of all people asked, (tw bunny, zombie, gore) ZOMBIE EASTER BUNNIES!! The nightmare is actual half-present actual bleeding bunnies!! AND IT IS TERRIBLE!!

I mean, WTF?
But you could also do:
So I was out in the woods one day and I saw (tw animal violence, bunnies, death, gore ) an owl swoop down and catch a fluffy bunny! I was surprised so I wandered over, and actually it was a whole warren of bunnies, with their little beady eyes and fluffy tails, running around all fluffy and with their ears sticking out. But after a moment it got quiet and then I saw where the owl hadn't actually eaten all the bunny, just, like, half, and it was lying there all bloody.

Ever since then I've had nightmares (tw nightmare, bunny, zombie, gore, bad therapy) where a whole warren of half-eaten zombie bunnies are chasing me. It's really messing with my sleep, but whenever I tell anyone, they just laugh and start making jokes, about are they made from chocolate. NO, they are not, as my THERAPIST of all people asked, ZOMBIE EASTER BUNNIES!! The nightmare is actual half-present actual bleeding bunnies!! AND IT IS TERRIBLE!!

I mean, WTF?
One of the features of the first approach is that you can kind of follow what's going on without having to see the particular badness. However, that may actually be too much for some people, and you have to use your own judgement about that.

But if you over-warn, then people who want to follow the conversation may not be able to take part because they miss important information. In this example, they are missing the crucial fact that author's peers are mocking them instead of supporting them.

twomoogles
Posts: 526
Joined: Wed Sep 18, 2013 7:41 pm

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by twomoogles »

what, if anything, should a person warn for if they were to post a whole wall of text involving a lot of history in one of the abuse support group threads? Especially if that person can't necessarily tell which things would be considered abuse, and which aren't, but the whole situation was bad? Is it OK to not warn since it's a thread for it, or give a content warning before the post? Trigger warn the whole post? Especially when the person might not be totally clear on even how to warn for the content properly, or how to describe it? Deciding what in the post needs a warning and what doesn't seems exhausting and anxiety-making. thank you for any help provided!

User avatar
carbonatedwit
Posts: 1720
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:27 am
Pronouns: she/her

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by carbonatedwit »

If you are in a thread dedicated explicitly to bunnies, you would not trigger warn for "and I was petting a very soft bunny." However, you would probably want to warn for "and then it bit me".

Example: if everyone is talking about how the trainer at their gym yells at them, you would not TW for your trainer yelling at you. You post what your trainer yells at you, and it is okay. Something that might happen is someone says that actually, what your trainer yells is especially bad, and could you put a warning on that? In that case, you say, oops, and probably hit the report button to ask a moderator to fix it for you. That is okay!

Alternative 1: If you're not sure, you can say "My trainer yells at me too, but she doesn't say the same kinds of things... she says this stuff, is that okay?" and then people can talk about it, and again if anyone's triggered they can say something. ("OUCH" is something.)

Alternative 2: If you're pretty sure that something is terribly wrong but you just don't know what, you can preface it with the content note, or you can put the black box over the whole thing (although we would prefer not). You can also ask for help from a mod, or post in more general terms.

Alternative 3: You can also write an I Need Help question about this. If you are seriously stuck on getting a post somewhere, you can just stick the whole shebang in something on I Need Help with your best stab at a content note. ("Fluffy Bunny Badness" is a great content note!)

Ultimately, we want this to be helpful and relatively simple. We don't want it to be hard, exhausting, or anxiety-making. I know the more things we write, the more complex it seems to be. But in the end, we want people to do the best they can, and no better. I'd rather have people post and make a mistake than decide not to post.

If all you have is, "I have no idea if anything in that is triggering and I don't want to hurt anyone but I can't figure it out right now argh argh flail".... it is okay to say exactly literally that. In a perfect world you then click the report button on your post and write, literally if necessary, "argle flail", so mods can help right away.

User avatar
DropTable~DropsMic
Posts: 4830
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:27 am
Pronouns: She or They
Gender: meh

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by DropTable~DropsMic »

I have a question about how to handle this. What do we do when the reference to the triggering thing is no more detailed than the words necessary to describe the trigger?

Do we write the word twice, which seems weird and unneccesary?

"I was walking down the street when I saw a (fluffy bunny)fluffy bunny."

Do we use a euphemism or general term, which runs the risk of being totally uninformative?

"I was walking down the street when I saw a (mammal of a certain texture)fluffy bunny."

Or do we just not cover it at all?

This has come up for me in a recent thread where I wrote something like [WARNING ACTUAL TRIGGERING TOPIC AHEAD]:

"My mom said she didn't have time to talk about the fact that (sexual assault)I was raped"

Which I'm not sure if that falls under the first category or the second as both terminologies could be equally upsetting to some.

Any thoughts on how to handle this?

User avatar
CodaSammy
Administrator
Posts: 5012
Joined: Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:00 pm
Pronouns: she, her
Gender: female
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by CodaSammy »

DropTable - see golden rule #2 in the first post. If it's just a brief mention, it usually doesn't need covering.

User avatar
kathlynn
Posts: 1295
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:48 am
Pronouns: any female or generic pronoun
Gender: Female
Location: Canada

Re: Trigger warnings: a how to guide

Post by kathlynn »

In the past people have brought up people using trigger warnings too much. (I am specifically thinking about the post/topic discussing warnings regarding kink and sex TWs).

[deletes ramble] If you think people might wonder about why somethings triggered, is it okay to use an asterisks and explain the use at the end of your post. To use what I was going to post for an example:
*depression symptom trigger "I haven't been able to cry in years. I'm completely numb"



*TW used because rereading my symptom hurts me.
I mean, if someone started doing this constantly, I can see discussing it with them, depending on the situation. And I don't want to see people feeling expected to defend or explain their use of a trigger warning. But I felt like it was helpful, at least to myself to add it.

Also, back around Mother's Day we had that thread where people discussed their negative opinions of it. I shared an anxiety thought in it, but added the warning at the top of the post (link to post), rather then at/before the hidden text. Is there any problem with that. (looking back, it would have been better to post it at the beginning of the paragraph, rather then at the beginning of the post... but I probably put it there since I usually rewrite a post at least 5 times, and didn't want to forget to add it or accidentally delete it).
I fuss over details, loath absolute/blanket statements, and probably over think everything I do.

Post Reply