NOTE: Between writing this article and publishing it, I’ve learned that, in response to the criticism from everyone — from Salman Rushdie to Queen Consort Camilla — the “classic” versions will still remain available from Penguin, alongside the newer Puffin versions.
Point still stands.
I’ve waited a week to see if maybe I could let it pass… and I just can’t. So I’m allowing myself a bit of an angry outburst today.
I’m talking the choice that Puffin Books, the UK publisher of the late children’s literature author Roald Dahl’s books (Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, etc.), made to make hundreds of changes to his books to adapt the language for “modern audiences.”
Basically, they’ve neutered the books by removing “objectionable” words.
Words like “fat,” or “ugly,” when used to describe fictional characters (e.g., not real people) who are actually… umm… fat or ugly.
They’re not making those books better; they’re making literature worse.
I’m so angry about this I could posse up and ride at down. Track down these fools and help them understand reality in a way that will make certain that they will never, ever, choose to commit such an atrocity like this again.
I assure you, this is not a “political” article. This is an article about words.
Words matter. Especially to Thought Leaders.
Because words are the way thoughts are led. The way people perceive the world.
When you take words away, you limit the ability to communicate and perceive. Even if you’re communicating the perception that someone really shouldn’t have said what they did.
…Which, at times, is a perfectly reasonable judgement.
I’ll give you an example in the form of a confession:
I let a mistake slip by in last Friday’s email to my You Can Be A Thought Leader subscribers.
It read, “Needless to say, a “Thought Leader” (and I put that in quotes very intentionally) who is not respected is going to be followed.”
What it should have said was, “Needless to say, a “Thought Leader” (and I put that in quotes very intentionally) who is not respected is not going to be followed.”
See how I missed that second “not?”
In the grand scheme of things — the email was nearly 400 words — one word isn’t a big deal.
Except that it was. It changed the meaning of the entire sentence.
Because each and every word, even an objectionable one, matters.
If any of your followers should attempt to neuter your language as a Thought Leader (whether for preference, politics, politeness, or anything else), they should be immediately banished from the kingdom.
Do not let those people persist, because they will tear down your leadership and your audience.
As a Thought Leader, you must communicate clearly and effectively, and in a way that is attractive to the right people, without apology.
This is non-negotiable.