What do Mighty editors look for when they edit your stories? Besides typos (it happens to the best of us), we’re also making sure all stories follow our editorial guidelines.
The Mighty aims to share honest stories responsibly and respectfully. We believe through storytelling, we can actually help people. To do that, we need everyone submitting a story to feel safe. These guidelines are here to help make that possible. They should encourage, not hinder, you in telling your story.
Table of Contents
Tips for Writing Your Story
At The Mighty, our stories prioritize the lived experience of people with health conditions, disabilities, or any kind of neurodiversity. We also publish the perspectives of parents, educators, medical professionals, and caregivers.
We don’t typically publish “journey” stories (i.e. everything that has happened to you since your first symptom to the present day). Instead, our stories focus on moments — specific thoughts, feelings, or anecdotes you believe capture an important part of your health story. If you’re curious why we couldn’t publish your story or posted it as a Thought and you can’t find the answer here, you can read our Contributor FAQs for more information.
Our editors look for stories that:
- Go deep into specific parts of living with a condition or disability.
- Provide helpful lessons or takeaways.
- Provide new perspectives on living with a health condition or disability.
- Offer advice or hope for people who aren’t as far along on their journeys.
- Get real — show a more authentic side of health we normally don’t see.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Length: Stories on The Mighty typically run between 400-1200 words. If your story is longer than 2000 words, please email us at email@example.com to chat about it.
- Structure: Stories should be structured like an essay with a beginning, middle, and end. If you’re submitting a news story, you should try to follow the format for news writing. You can also submit lists, but make sure they have an introduction and conclusion.
- Sources: If you include a statistic or fact, please provide a link to the source. We may be unable to accept your story or include your statistic if you don’t.
- Audience: It’s great to have an idea of who you are writing for. If you’re writing for someone newly diagnosed, you’d avoid medical jargon that you might include in a piece for someone further along in their journey. For more great tips on knowing your audience, see this Thought from Mighty editor Sarah Schuster.
- Privacy: Think about the privacy of loved ones, friends, and strangers mentioned in your story. Be respectful when sharing details of others’ lives.
- Identity: Embrace your intersectionality. We encourage BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and writers of other identities to consider how their intersections affect their experience with a condition or disability.
- Takeaway: Consider how someone would feel at the end of your story. Not every story needs to have a happy ending, but we do encourage our contributors to end with some sort of takeaway or message for our community. For more on this, see this guide from Mighty Editor Sarah Schuster.
- Photos: We love when you include original photos with your submissions! Make sure your photo is big enough (at least 1280 px width x 800 px height). You must have permission to use any photo you include. For more information, see our Contributor FAQs.
- Timely: If your story is timely (meaning, it’s about something in the news or an upcoming holiday or awareness day), make sure to mark it as “timely” during the submission process.
- Language: We welcome both person-first language (i.e. “person with a disability”) and identity-first language (i.e. “disabled person”). We understand that everyone experiences health conditions and disabilities differently, and respect our contributors’ right to self-identify.
- Generalizations: Make sure you’re only speaking about your experience with a health condition or disability, and be careful when making assumptions or generalizations about everyone with your condition.
- Prompts: If you want to write a story for us but don’t know where to start, check out our writing prompts.
- Plagiarism: Should you knowingly or unknowingly plagiarize — meaning most or parts of your story are directly taken from a source that isn’t yours — we won’t be able to publish your story on The Mighty. It’s OK to include select quotes or stats from other sources as long as you disclose where it originally appeared.
Sensitivities and Triggers
There are some details that we generally do not allow regardless, as they can be particularly triggering, distressing, or dangerous for some people. These apply to all stories regardless of topic. You can find a breakdown of these below:
- Suicide Methods: It’s OK to talk about suicide, but leave out details about specific suicide methods. If you have to mention a suicide method as part of a narrative, be as vague as possible. For more information and alternatives, see this link.
- Self-Harm: It’s OK to talk about self-harm, but leave out detailed descriptions of methods and imagery.
- Eating Disorders: Don’t include how many calories you or your loved one consumed per day or details about what exactly they were eating. We’re also mindful to exclude calorie counts from all of our stories. Avoid mentions of specific diets and specific weight loss or weight gain figures.
- Sexual Violence: It’s important to be able to talk about sexual violence, but please avoid extremely graphic imagery unless it is crucial to the story.
- Medication: We welcome all perspectives on medication, but ask for you to be respectful of those with perspectives different from your own. Please avoid medication names and brands. For example, “antipsychotic medication” versus a specific name. It's OK to talk about the experience of missing medication, but do not suggest it is OK to stop taking medication without consulting a medical professional, regardless of the outcome.
- General Language: Avoid words that have historically demeaned people with mental illnesses. This includes general and specific: “crazy,” “psycho,” “lunatic.” (Unless you’re writing a piece about these words, or have reclaimed them in a meaningful way.) For example, instead of saying something was “crazy,” you could say it was irritating, annoying, or that it was “wild.” See our Inclusive and Respectful Language Guidelines section for more on this topic.
Chronic Illness, Disability, and Neurodiversity
- Use Respectful Language: Avoid words that have historically demeaned people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. This includes “suffer from [condition],” “idiot,” “stupid,” “r*tard,” “handicapped,” “wheelchair-bound,” etc. See our Inclusive and Respectful Language Guidelines section below for more on this topic.
- Identity-First and Person-First Language: Both “person with a disability” and “disabled person” are acceptable on The Mighty. If you’re writing about someone else, ask which terms they prefer. Do not use euphemisms such as “differently-abled” or “special needs” -- “disability” and “chronic illness” are not bad words and don’t need to be avoided.
- Avoid “Inspiration Porn”: Don’t call disabled people “inspirational” for doing everyday activities. Don’t treat abled people as heroes for simply being kind to a disabled person.
- Autism/Neurodiversity Acceptance: Autistic people need acceptance and support, and to have their voices centered in conversations about autism. Please don’t use the puzzle piece in submitted images, or promote organizations that have currently or recently advocated for curing autism.
Parenting and Caregiving
- Respect Privacy: Don’t share highly personal and/or potentially stigmatizing details about someone other than yourself -- such as your child or spouse -- without their consent. Never share details about toileting issues, aggression, self-harm, or similar private matters without consent. If the person cannot consent due to age or disability, this information can’t be included.
- Don’t Blame the Person: Don’t depict disabled or ill people as a burden, and be careful not to blame family problems on someone’s condition in a blanket or simplified way. It is OK to be angry about discrimination, a broken health care system, etc., and talk about how those issues affect your loved one and family.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes: When writing about a child or family member, always ask yourself: How would I feel if someone published this information about me in a place where millions of people can read it? If you wouldn't feel good about it, then it probably isn't appropriate to share.
- Use Respectful Language: Children have disabilities or chronic illnesses, not “special needs.” See our Inclusive and Respectful Language Guidelines section below for more on this topic.
Inclusive and Respectful Language Guidelines
We are looking for contributors who understand the importance of using inclusive and supportive language to describe disability, chronic illness, and mental health conditions. Our editorial guidelines about language may seem strict, but The Mighty reaches millions of people every year, and the words we use have the power to shape the way society thinks about our community. We take this responsibility seriously, and ask that you do, too.
We ask that you follow these guidelines when writing Contributor Stories and Thoughts. We are less strict about Thoughts, but Contributor Story submissions that do not follow these guidelines may be declined or returned for you to correct the issues before publication.
1. Describe conditions and mobility equipment using positive or neutral language.
Ending stigma around chronic conditions and disabilities starts with changing the way we talk about them.
Say: “has” or “lives with” a condition and “uses” a wheelchair or walker.
Don’t say: “suffers from,” “afflicted with,” “crippled by,” “wheelchair-bound,” etc.
- Juan is afflicted with multiple sclerosis → Juan lives with multiple sclerosis.
- Tyra suffered a brain injury in a car accident. → Tyra sustained a brain injury.
- Chronic illness sufferers → People with chronic illness.
- I have crippling anxiety → I have severe anxiety, debilitating anxiety, or crushing anxiety.
- My daughter had red flags for autism → My daughter has autistic traits.
- Maria is confined to a wheelchair → Maria uses a wheelchair.
- The Problem With Saying People 'Suffer From' Health Conditions
- I Don't Suffer From Blindness. I Suffer From Ableism.
- My Wheelchair Is Not a Prison
- When Someone Calls Me ‘Wheelchair-Bound’
2. Use person-first or identity-first language.
Both are acceptable on The Mighty. If you’re writing about someone else, ask which terms they prefer. Many people on the autism spectrum prefer identity-first language -- “autistic” vs. “person with autism.” Do not use euphemisms for disability and chronic illness -- they’re not bad words.
Say: “person with a disability,” “disabled person.”
Don’t say: “special needs,” “handicapped,” “differently-abled.”
- Special needs parents → Parents of children with disabilities
- Autism parents → Parents of autistic children, OR parents of children on the autism spectrum
- Handicapped parking → accessible parking or disabled parking
- Handicapable, differently-abled → disabled
- Why Many Autistic Adults Prefer 'Identity-First' Language
- Should You Use Person-First or Identity-First Language?
- 'Disabled' Is Not a Four-Letter Word
- Why We Say 'Disability,' Not 'Special Needs' - The Mighty Explains
3. Avoid casual ableism in language.
Sometimes we use words in everyday conversations that can be stigmatizing to people with health conditions. Even if that’s not your intention, please replace these words with alternatives when writing for The Mighty.
Don’t say: “crazy,” “insane,” “stupid,” “idiot,” “Are you blind/deaf?” or other similar words to describe experiences unrelated to these conditions.
If you take a moment, you can often think of alternatives that more accurately describe the situation.
- I had a crazy weekend → I had a wild weekend OR I had a stressful weekend
- Joe was blind to the reality of systemic racism → Joe was clueless about OR unwilling to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism.
Using problematic words can be acceptable when their offensive nature is clear.
For example, it’s OK to use a word when discussing its history or why it is harmful to people with health conditions. You can also quote other people who use these words, or you can discuss negative thoughts you’ve had about yourself that include these words. In all of these cases, use quotation marks around the word.
- Kids at school bullied me because of my learning disabilities, so I believed I was “stupid” and would never amount to anything.
- Doctors refused to believe me and thought I was “crazy” because they couldn’t find the source of my chronic pain.
- Although it is used as a general insult today, the word “idiot” was originally a medical term used to classify people with intellectual disabilities.
- Please Don't Write Me Off as 'Crazy' Because of My Mental Illness
- I'm Not 'Crazy' for Talking About My Feelings
- How Comedians Can Stop Using Words That Insult People With Disabilities
4. Be aware of sensitivities surrounding discussions of suicide.
Content warning: suicide methods are mentioned below as an example.
Be careful not to use words that make suicide sound like a crime or that stigmatize people who attempted or died by suicide.
Say: “died by suicide,” “attempted suicide.”
Don’t say: “committed suicide,” “successful suicide,” “failed to complete.”
- Joe committed suicide → Joe died by suicide.
- Rita failed to complete suicide → Rita attempted suicide.
Limit the details. Never disclose the details of a suicide note.
Avoid discussing the method of suicide whenever possible. Never give details such as specific pills taken that might allow someone to replicate the method.
- Joe shot himself → Joe died by suicide.
- Why We Need to Stop Saying 'Committed' Suicide
- A Case for Trigger Warnings, From a Suicide Loss Survivor's Perspective
- Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
5. Discussing self-harm
Content warning: self-harm details are mentioned below as an example.
Avoid including unnecessary details of self-harm, including method, location, and severity.
Never imply someone is weak for engaging in self-harm and never include complex imagery of blood or wounds. Use "self-harm" or "self-injury" to discuss the behavior, but avoid "self-mutilation" in most circumstances.
Note: it’s OK to say you have scars from self-harm but avoid a specific number or severity if possible. Also, self-harm takes many forms and isn’t limited to physically harming one’s skin.
- I used a disposable razor to cut my arms → I engaged in self-harm OR harmed myself.
- I am a cutter → I am a self-harmer OR I am a person who harms myself.
- I needed 20 stitches → I needed medical intervention.
- I would lock the bathroom door → I would make sure I couldn’t be disturbed.
- Why This Model With Self-Harm Scars Doesn't Need a Trigger Warning
- 15 Behaviors We Don't Always Recognize Are Self-Harm
6. Be sensitive to the needs of our eating disorder community when discussing food.
Content warning: eating disorder details are mentioned below as an example.
Avoid numbers in eating disorder pieces, particularly weight lost or gained, exercise amounts, and the number of calories consumed.
- I lost 20 pounds in a month → I lost a lot of weight in a short period.
- I was consuming under 1000 calories → I was consuming fewer calories than necessary.
- He weighed only 70 kg → His weight was low.
- She would run 10 miles every day → She would overexercise.
Avoid detailed descriptions of physical appearance in the context of weight loss.
Avoid references to specific foods, diets, or weight loss supplements.
- Why Eating Disorder Comparisons Are Harmful, Even in Recovery
- 7 Things That Can Trigger My Eating Disorder Thoughts
7. Considerations when discussing race and ethnicity, gender, and orientation.
- Capitalize races and ethnicities when they are identities, for example, Black, Indigenous. When writing about a specific person, respect how they identify, such as if they prefer to be called Black or African American.
- Always respect others' gender pronouns. Please add your gender pronouns to your profile if you feel comfortable doing so.
- If you’re referring to an abstract person, use "their" rather than "his/her" to be inclusive of all genders.
- If you are creating a list, such as "8 Female Bloggers With Chronic Illness,” check to make sure all the people you're listing identify as that gender. It’s often better to be inclusive and just list your favorite bloggers, activists, etc. rather than specifying gender.
Why Was My Story Declined or Posted as a Thought?
See our Contributor FAQ for more information.