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An offense is a violation of dignity and personal or collective rights; insult by word or deed, or both; an injustice, perceived as a form of evil. It is always ugly. It may be real, or it may be imagined. The taking or giving of "offense" may be a pretext for generating conflict. Offense is often a hot topic in partisan politics—frequently someone claims that another writer or speaker has said something "offensive", which was "wrong".

An offense that is deliberate is intended to produce at least one of two basic responses:

Offense has been used to crush or silence opposition, and in attempts to repel or drive away anyone deemed to be undesirable.

Unintentional offense results from careless actions or words without consideration of their actual offensiveness to others, or from genuine ignorance, or from the distorted perceptions and interpretations of prejudiced persons eagerly taking offense at normally innocent and acceptable speech and behavior, solely for the purpose of causing civil unrest. Unintentional offenses have often been used by provocateurs using specious reasoning and appeals to emotion as pretexts for starting riots.

Common offenses include sacrilege, blasphemy, oppression, tyranny, slavery, contempt, ridicule, alienation, intimidation, treachery, treason, mutiny, prejudice, racism, hate-mongering, vandalism, fornication, adultery, child molestation, bullying, oppression, cruelty, kidnapping, imprisonment (especially false), taking hostages, mutilation, killing, manslaughter, gossip, slander, libel, character assassination, hypocrisy, false witness, envy, jealousy, conspiracy, fraud, crimes, torts, negligence (violations of the Standard of care), and misdemeanors.

See also