In an article I'm writing, I have the following sentence:

"It might be a bit of a moral gray area to..."

I go on to give an analogy to connect it to the topic I'm writing about, but I'm not liking the phrase "it might be a bit of a moral gray area." I'd like to re-phrase this sentence somehow, but I'm not sure how to express the idea of "a morally gray" area, if that makes sense. Something that... while it's not outright bad or illegal, it's also not ethically acceptable.... "or is it?" That's kind of where I'm stuck with phrasing. Any help, advice or ideas would greatly be appreciated.

3 Answers 3


"Morally dubious" would convey your meaning well. It carries the idea that someone could think the course of action might be defensible if they try hard enough but really it is not what a decent person would do.

It's very similar to @Miike's 'morally-questionable' but seems a little stronger in its condemnation to me.


The phrase "A little bit of a grey area" will convey your meaning... the grey (instead of black and white) will indicate it's not a clear cut case, and the simpler phrasing might feel less clunky to your ear.

Alternately, you might try "it's a little morally shady" - again, it conveys your meaning (shade being between darkness and light, very standard metaphors for right and wrong), and rolls of the tongue a little better than "morally grey". You could even just go with "it's a little shady", for much the same meaning... I just prefer "morally shady" as a phrase in and of itself.


Wiktionary defines ethically challenged this way:

(idiomatic, humorously politically correct, euphemistic) unethical; dishonest.

The term is appearing so regularly in headlines and news articles that I wonder whether the usage isn't perhaps achieving a status of standard usage. For example:

Uber is "the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley". November 18, 2014 CNN Money

In any case, the term suggests questionable ethics and morals without making a specific accusation or wrongdoing.

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