Is cursing the hip way to express yourself? Or is it hopelessly prudish to refuse using naughty words?
I admire people who abstain from cursing. I often find it necessary to apologize for swearing – excuse my French – because once they’re in your daily vocabulary, four-letter words pop out like hiccups.
The smallest provocation – stress, anger, excitement – gives profanity a free pass and out rush curses like the hounds of Baskerville. This tendency, if not checked, gives employers a bad impression. CareerBuilder’s survey shows the majority of employers have negative reactions to employees’ swearing at work.
Meanwhile, we continue to swear, less so in front of our superiors than around our co-workers, and men more so than women.
But what about swearing online, in social media, where your profanity has a far wider audience? Swearing here is not about offending your workplace associates. These are your valued followers and would-be customers. What will your broader audience think? And do you care?
I hate it when people unfollow when I say fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
— Brian Clark (@copyblogger) February 4, 2013
Take Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger. His recent f-bomb-laden @copyblogger tweet suggests a smug confidence. Either Clark knows his audience, or he’s unconcerned about those who fail to be entertained. As best-selling author Seth Godin might say to them, “It’s not for you.”
So you know your audience. And you don’t care about those who would get in your way of something “brave and important.” Is it worth the risk? Or, better yet, is this really your best work?
Stephen King begins his second foreword in On Writing by citing Rule 17 under “Principles of Composition” of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. “Omit needless words.”
One could argue that curse words are unneeded and unclean grammatically. Foul language muddies grammar, and should be carefully chosen, even when used for emphasis or to show passion for a particular subject. Occasional light swearing is shown to increase your persuasive factor by showing more intensity in your speech. In this study, light swearing involves the word damn, a PG-rated curse, if one exists.
A far cry from the f-bomb.
As far as expletives go, ethnic slurs are considered far more taboo these days, according to The Guardian. Changes in our choice of swear words and what’s considered shocking continue to evolve, from sexual swearing in the mid-20th century to religious swearing before that.
I guess we can expect political correctness, but common vulgarity will continue to rear its foul head.
If you do choose to swear online, remember that what is said in social media is like a tattoo. It’s there forever.
It’s far easier to maintain your authentic self when it doesn’t rely on the coolness factor of cussing. Whether you are around kids, business prospects, or those who aren’t impressed by obscenities, you can express yourself without apology.
If this offends you, then I guess it’s not for you.
I’d love to hear your expletive-deleted thoughts.