Content Warnings – Do You or Don’t You?

September 24, 2014 The Bookwyrm Wonders 12

Recently I’ve been noticing that some bloggers are putting heat ratings, age recommendations, or other content warnings on their reviews.  It got me to wondering: How useful are those ratings/warnings to readers? And do they make sense for a blog like mine that covers several genres and spans the gamut from children’s to adult books? Or am I better off simply incorporating that information into the review itself?
So far, I’ve been indicating the genre of a book (including whether it’s adult, YA, or middle-grade) below the review, along with the publication information. I’ll also often mention the target audience in the review. However, when it comes to heat, I don’t usually talk about how explicit an adult book is, unless it’s unusually explicit or surprisingly unracy. I suppose that’s because so many adult books, especially romances and thrillers, contain explicit or suggestive scenes that it has become commonplace. I’m not even sure I should add heat ratings as a standard thing – it’s one more subjective rating, and one more thing for me to keep track of when I read. 
What do you think? As a blogger, do you give content warning or heat ratings for the books you review? Why or why not? And if you do, are you a genre-hopper like me, or do you mostly review a single genre, like romance or YA?  And as a reader, do you find that kind of information helpful in deciding which books to read?

12 Responses to “Content Warnings – Do You or Don’t You?”

  1. Tanya Patrice

    I don’t give “heat” ratings which I didn’t even know what that was until I read your post. I do indicate genre when I’m discussing a book but since I don’t really talk about children’s or middle grade books I don’t think heat ratings would be something I use.

  2. Kaja

    Hi, this is a great post! Well, I don’t see why you should add age warnings if you already provide info about the intended audience… Also, I think the genre (in adult lit especially) tells you much about what you can expect – you can’t have a historical romance without some smooching 🙂 If I see warnings about coarse language and similar stuff, I actually feel the reviewer might be a bit of a prude… But that’s an extreme opinion.
    In any case, there’s nothing missing from your reviews 🙂

  3. Katherine P

    I do a lot of genre ratings as well and haven’t really thought about content ratings. I think our views sound pretty similar. If there’s something I think the reader should be aware of I’ll mention it in the review but other than that no. As for heat ratings in romance I think that’s subjective as well. Some people like books with lots of heat so what seems like hot to me might seem pretty tame to someone else. I will mention if there’s something in the physical scenes that I don’t like – there was one book I read recently where the physical scenes had so much anger it made me a little uncomfortable but in general I don’t really mention it one way or the other. Like you I definitely don’t read enough of one genre to have any kind of standard content rating. Great topic!

  4. Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous

    Since most of my reading is YA (or classics, which tend to be tame in most regards) I usually feel like whatever I’m reading is pretty appropriate for anyone capable of handling the word length. But if I do review something targeting adults, and especially if there’s anything racy or particularly violent, I try to make a mention in the review. In part that’s *because* I do so much YA, I don’t want people to assume something is YA when it isn’t!

  5. Anna (herding cats-burning soup)

    I do give a heat rating and appreciate having those. I think they’re more important if a blog goes across the romance genre. Some of mine have no heat and others are full out everything and anything kinky and I have a set of followers for each and some that will not read the other no matter what or waste time reading the review for it. So helpful I think. I don’t do the warning 18+ thing or anything like that though. I figure that’s pretty obvious with mine. lol

  6. Bea

    Several bloggers I follow use heat ratings but as you said, that’s a subjective rating. I generally skim ratings, I’m more interested in the actual review, what the reviewer has to say. Once or twice I’ve given content or trigger warnings; I do appreciate when a blogger gives those. Even if it’s not my trigger, it’s still good to know and someone else will find it useful.

  7. Rita_h

    I try to keep in mind my target readers and what they might expect as they get to know my tastes (I don’t read erotica, for instance) so if I read a book that has unusually explicit sexual scenes or gratuitous violence, I will state that under the publication info.

    Otherwise I don’t rate anything other than how many stars. I even tried to do away with those, but then I figured it helped my blog readers sense my enjoyment so I put them back in.
    Thanks for a good discussion.

  8. Susan

    I used to just mention heat/age warnings in the body of my reviews, but I don’t think they came across strongly enough. Now, I use a movie rating system (G, PG, PG-13, R) and give general reasons why, just like they do on movies. I place rating icons at the bottom of all my reviews, so that readers can easily see what the books would be rated if they were movies. Lots of my readers have told me how much they appreciate having this info.

    For myself, I like having content warnings. They won’t necessarily stop me from reading a book, but at least I know what I’m getting into before I open a book. I especially appreciate them when I’m picking out books for my kids to read. Before I hand a book to my 12 yo, I like to know if it’s appropriate and what topics might come up in the book that we need to discuss together.

    Interesting topic/discussion!

  9. Lola R

    I don’t mind seeing content warnings in reviews and usually do read them, but I don’t include them in my own reviews as I don’t really see the point and sometimes it’s difficult to adequately categorize a book in an age category or heat level. And usually I don’t really care which age category or heat level a book has, if it cathces my interest I want to read it and else not. I guess they can be ahndy if you don’t want to read a certain type of book and it can be nice to know what to expect.

  10. booksntea

    I don’t give any sort of content warning, but I’m certain there are some readers out there that are interested in this sort of information–think of a parent or family member that is interested in purchasing a book for their child or niece/nephew– they may not want to read the book (bummer, right?), but they want to know whether or not the book is appropriate for their family member.

    – Jackie

  11. Benni @ Benni's Bookbiters

    I don’t give any content warnings, unless they happen to be part of my review anyway. I figure there are enough sites out there that can provide that information. I just want my site to be my opinion, rather than an information hub; if people have any questions, of course, I’d be happy to tell them if I remember. I guess I’m putting the burden on the reader to find out for themselves.

    Also, I know sometimes people don’t even like cursing, so how far would you have to go in providing warnings? Things like cursing don’t even get on my radar when I’m reading. So, of course, my answer is to just leave it all off, unless something stood out, in which case it would be in my review.
    Benni @ Benni’s Bookbiters recently posted…An Unofficial Eleanor & Park SoundtrackMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It’s a tough question, and I agree that we all have such different ideas of what makes us uncomfortable that it’s hard to include. And as you say, it’s ultimately up to the reader – or the parent, in the case of kids. Since I do review YA and children’s books, I will usually say something if I think a book is better for older teens, but ultimately, the parent needs to decide. And I’ll sometimes say that an adult book was too explicit for me, or too blunt, or contained a “love” scene that felt too much like rape. But I think, on reflection, that I’d rather do that on a case-by-case basis in the review.

      I do, however, always note the target age in the genre, if the intended audience isn’t adult: YA fantasy, MG fantasy, etc.