I have been warned that a lot of modern readers are sensitive to expressions of politically incorrect sentiments. Even the villain should not say anything too offensive on certain subjects. I have also been warned to choose my words carefully. What was acceptable a decade or two ago would be considered out of place today.
I do not want to offend anyone unnecessarily and every author needs to choose words carefully. So I should have no problem then? If only.
I want to make my characters realistic. Some will have to have attitudes and opinions that I do not agree with. Some will have unfortunate ways of expressing themselves.
I myself find it hard to keep up with changes in acceptable terminology. ‘Coloured’ is apparently unacceptable, despite the fact that there is still an organisation called The American Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Its leader was once Martin Luther King.
I said I do not want to offend anyone unnecessarily. There are, however, people whom it is necessary to offend. I do not intend to be so bland that I give no inkling as to my own beliefs or values.
Finally, although I believe words are important (!) I also believe you can make them too important. You can worry too much about what to call something rather than what to do about it. Derek Hatton once said that some of his colleagues argued longer about whether you could call a manhole a personhole, than on whether one was needed in a certain location.
Jesus once accused his critics of “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel”.