Profanity on the web exists. People use it. Get used to it. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If you read a writer who uses it, stop reading them. If you stumble across it on a normally curse-free site, it’s not the end of the world.
Profanity is out there
They are merely words and those words cannot hurt you. As the old nursery rhyme goes, sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.1
There is no point in hiding a naughty word behind an asterisk. You’re not fooling anyone. I agree with the advice doled out by Tom Borowski.
If you’re going to use expletives, don’t try to hide them. Just write them out in full or figure out a way to compose your sentence with a more sophisticated vocabulary. For fuck’s sake.
My stance on profanity in my writing
This got me to thinking about profanity and how I view and use it. I’ve always maintained a policy of not using profanity in my writing.2 Whether it be a social network update, comments on a blog or writing I sign my name to and post on my own pages across the web, I don’t curse when I write.
It’s not because I’m opposed to it morally or ethically. I feel I can craft a better sentence without it. There are plenty of acronyms for increasing the impact of the statement I’m making without a curse word thrown into the mix.
I also do not curse in my writing because it’s a distraction and turns away readers. I don’t want someone to not read my words or ignore the point I am making because they hit a disagreeable word.
When I was writing and recording for Splintered Reality I made a point to never use curse words in my lyrics because I wanted to reach as many people with my words as I could. I don’t agree with censorship but the fact remains, if there is cursing, there is editing or censoring and I didn’t want my words to be changed so I wrote them without it.
It’s vital to remember in the age of a connected world, what you say online stays online. What you say will never go away. It’s being indexed, and relinked and quoted across the web with or without your knowledge.
Some people curse like sailors, others never so much as utter a rude word. The web is a huge place and filled with people at both ends of the spectrum and all along it.
But you just used a naughty word in this post
Just as I don’t agree with censorship, asterisks and clean edits of songs, I don’t agree with censoring someone if I quote them.
The F-word appears in this post. It appears in its full and unfiltered glory but as part of a quote. Sure, I could have omitted the last part of the quote and kept it out of this post, but I wanted to prove a point.
I do not write with curse words in my writing but I am not afraid to use them when quoting what others have said. Just as I want to be heard and read exactly as I intended, I want to give others the same courtesy.
Is this hypocritical? Probably. However, this is my blog. This is my site. This is my space to write on the web that is an extension of myself. This is my front porch where I sit in my rocking chair and yell at you kids to keep off the grass.
As Jeffrey Zeldman wrote recently, This is my personal site. There are many like it, but this one is mine. He is talking about the design changes but the same idea applies to the content.
This is my site. I am not posting on a Facebook or Twitter. You’re most likely not going to haphazardly come across this post in a stream of updates unless you’re previously subscribed.
What about offline
Offline, I do curse when I speak sometimes. I’ve gone between never uttering a curse word to cursing like a pressman.3
My cursing comes and goes. A lot of it has to do with the people I’m around and how they speak. I don’t have any objections to being exposed to it but I also find it jarring in certain contexts.
My policy on cursing in writing is more concrete than my personal language. There is plenty of room for shades of gray and there is no clear-cut answer for me. Sometimes I curse, sometimes I don’t but I keep my writing clean. That’s what is important to me and that’s how I carry myself online and off.