In the UK, peoples attitudes towards profanity has radically changed over the last two decades. That’s not to say that its casual inclusion in common parlance is now de rigeur, but it has simply permeated the culture to such an extent, that it no longer has the potential to shock as much as it use to. Recently a member of the public had a conviction for swearing at a Police Officer overturned by a Judge on the grounds that “swearing at police is not a crime because they hear four letter words too frequently to be offended”. That ultimately is a separate issue, but I referenced it to demonstrate the ongoing changes in public sensibilities.
So, back to blogging. It is by its very nature a very personal and at times emotive activity. There may well be occasions when you wish to express yourself quite forcefully or feel such intense emotion, you wish to use profanity. As the master of your own destiny, you have to make that decision yourself, but it does inevitably come with consequences. Because some people really do take offence at it. In extreme cases it may lead to you losing readers. Even if you have written the most illuminating of posts, the inclusion of some colloquial Anglo-Saxon terms will upset some people and they will not be able to see beyond it. I am not saying if this is right or wrong. It’s a people issue and it needs to be considered and then offset against the old adage that you cannot please everyone.
I am not especially bothered by strong language, having worked in environments where it was extremely prevalent and to protest about it would have been redundant. However, I do not think that it is something that needs to be employed continuously, either in conversation or writing. I take the view that swearing, like any other literary of semantic device, can be very effective if used sparingly. A view that is held by such diverse writers as Stephen Fry and the late Harold Pinter. I also believe that we should not fear words or demonise them. There is a popular consensus at present that one particular word is the most offensive you can use. Yet this response is driven by a form of social conditioning which borders on the Pavlovian. Why should this one slang term be deemed more upsetting than any of the other dozen equivalent?
So I will use profanity when writing and I am comfortable with that. As a concession to common sense, acquired through being a parent, I will provide advance warning in some cases. I believe that informing people about content is a sensible and polite policy to pursue. If you do not feel that the use of strong language is appropriate on your blog or you do not feel comfortable with it in general, then simply avoid it. This is one of the few occasions where I feel a black or white response is appropriate. Personally I would never advocate a compromise approach. There is a tendency in contemporary US blogging to try and use alternative terms. A whole new lexicon of neutered phrases has sprung up. Ass-hat, Freakin’ and other PG-13 rated words reek of the worst sort of hypocrisy. Even the term titbit (referring to a nugget of information) has been altered to tidbit, to remove the breast reference contained therein.
Finally, as well as profanity, it is important to consider other terms that can be problematic. Faith is extremely important to many and is stronger in certain geographical regions that others. I try to avoid phrases that some would traditionally label blasphemous. I won’t even use OMG. It can still upset some and because of it’s over use in popular culture is somewhat crass anyway. Also, never lose sight of the fact that the perceived anonymity of the internet is not as bullet proof as some would have you think. You still have to be sensible about what you write and can still be subject to libel, sex discrimination and race/religious hate laws. The internet has a very long memory and once a blog post is out there in the public domain, it remains so. Deleting a rogue post or one written in the heat of the moment is not a definitive way to cover your tracks.
I hope my thoughts have been of use. I understand that some people will hold opposite opinions and that is fine. As bloggers we simply have to find the right path that suits our needs and hopefully those of the readers. Don’t forget to support the Newbie Blogger Initiative.