Choose Not to Warn

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Synonyms: CNTW
See also: Warning, Trigger Warning, Spoilers, Labels, AO3 Tagging System, Don't Like, Don't Read, Header
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Choose Not to Warn is a type of warning that became popular as a result of 2000s debates over whether fanfic should include trigger warnings.

It was suggested as a solution for fanfic authors who did not want to provide content warnings in the headers of their fanfic.

Print Zine Era

Choosing not to warn wasn't a topic for much of print zine fandom.

In the beginning, there were no descriptions of zine content regarding labels or warnings, other than the fandom. Later, some zine editors began to label their zines as het, or adult, or slash. Zines that contained same sex relationships, no matter how mild, required a warning statement for prospective fan buyers.

One notable change in choosing to warn was the The SekWester*Con Porn Debate in 1977.

Even then, aside from genre and sometimes theme, warnings in print zines were very rare. A very few zine eds included warnings and labels on a separate page in the back.

The thinking behind, and the process, of choosing not to warn in print zines was almost entirely the default, and baked into fan expectations.

Print Zines: Fan Comments

As a zine ed, I can guarantee you that I will NEVER put a warning, spoiler, pairing marking, etc. on stories in my zine. Why do you have to have them? Do novels, TV shows, movies?[1]

While I don't feel warnings are mandatory, I do appreciate anybody who warns. If a story has no warnings, as most zines do, I always check the end of the story and skim the body to be sure I'm okay with it. This is one of the main reasons I try to read a zine before buying it. I don't want to pay for stories that squick me, as I'd never read the zine again. This happened with one I tribbed to a while back. Such an awful story caught me by surprise, I stopped reading and tossed the zine on the book shelf, where it still resides, ignored by me. But I don't expect a zine to be warned. [2]

Mailing Lists

The anon meme fail_fandomanon is a Choose Not To Warn community.

Mailing Lists: Fan Comments

My theory on warnings: I won't warn, because I worked hard for my surprises. One of my current projects contains a death scene. BUT--the character isn't dead; it's an AU sequence... I will not ruin it by starting out said story and saying, "He's not really dead!" Now, okay, I HAVE...on a warnings REQUIRED list. I didn't like it. However, respecting those who want to be warned, I will privately warn anyone who asks me to. Just don't expect me to blow it for everyone. [3]

I have a question for folks who don't like to give warnings.

Why do you join a list that requires them, then?

I require warnings on my lists. <shrug> I also suggest, though, that people put them in a part 0 post. That way, if you want to be warned, you read part 0. If you don't, you ignore it. Doesn't seem so hard.

I was willing to comply with list rules in order to post it, even if I wasn't fond of the rule. <G> It's like at work...I love my job, but some of the rules are kinda silly. I still obey them.
I rarely join more than one list per fandom I'm interested in, and I try to pick the one with the best writers since I read as well as write. I'd rather abide by a warnings rule than join an unrestricted list where the overall quality of writing is rare. Plus, I've run across very few lists out there that don't require warnings. There's not really a lot of other options.
Because sometimes it's the only game in town? Just because I join a fluffy-bunny, warnings required all over the place list to discuss things or just observe that portion of a fandom doesn't mean I have any intention of posting a story there :)
Often, we have people join either the list or one of the LJ comms, and scream blue murder when the stories don't have warnings. In one case I remember, the person screaming *demanded* that the list owner instigate a warnings policy immediately. She had been in the fandom for three days, and she was trying to enforce *her* rules on a fandom that had been happily sailing along warnings free for years. Most writers in the [Oz] fandom do not want warnings, and considering the canon material they're working with, it seems somewhat silly that people should wish 'death' and 'violence' warnings anyway!
I'm afraid I'm part of the choir that sings the song 'You don't like our rules, feel free to leave.'
When I post in other fandoms, with a warnings rule attached, I will gladly include them, even though I hate them, but I won't use them by choice.[4]

Online Archives

Most online archives had a system of sorting and labeling the submissions to their site. This could come in the form of rejecting fiction that did not conform to the archive's guidelines. The theory was that if fans followed the rules regarding submitting their content to an archive, this eliminated undesirable content, and choose not to warn became a reality simply by default. See List of Content Banned by Archives.

Online archives also had a system of labels and warnings, both for steering fans away from fiction they did not want to read, and for steering fans toward the types of stories they enjoyed. The choose not to warn label wasn't an option. That came later with Archive of Our Own.

Most fans followed these guidelines, something that relied on fans following the rules out of courtesy, and for some, the desire not to be berated by other fans for their carelessness or insensitivity.

Online Archives: Fan Comments

There are readers like me who immediately delete a story that says the writer won't or can't warn or it gives the story away. I jump to the conclusion that it's something awful, or else why would somebody say that? I admit I don't give it a chance, but since my time is limited for fun and games, I want things that I'll enjoy. [5]

Archive of Our Own

"Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" was created in late 2009 to replace two previous tags: "Choose Not To Warn" and "Choose Not To Warn For Some Content".[6] As of 2019, 35% of the works on AO3 are tagged "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings".[7]

The Archive of Our Own implemented this warning as a required tag. When posting a fanwork to the archive, users must select the applicable archive warning:

  • No Archive Warnings Apply
  • Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings
  • Graphic Depictions Of Violence
  • Major Character Death
  • Rape/Non-Con
  • Underage

Archive of Our Own: Fan Comments


  1. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (June 2004)
  2. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (April 2005)
  3. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (April 2005)
  4. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (April 2005)
  5. ^ from a mailing list, quoted anonymously (April 2005)
  6. ^ New change to the AO3’s “Archive Warning” system – Organization for Transformative Works, Archived version, posted 2009-12-18.
  7. ^ As of February 16, 2019, 1,616,574 out of 4,561,071 works are tagged Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings.