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Dropping The F-Bomb: Blogging with Naughty Words

Swear BoxThis guest post on using swearing on your blog was written by Justin Dupre from Blogosis.

I’m thinking of a word that starts with F- and ends in U-C-K. There are two answers to this. If you are the good blogger, which I know you all are, (Italics for emphasis, people) you would know I’m thinking of a “fire-truck.” Of course, 99.9 percent of you thought different.

Blogging using cuss words has become a trend for some new bloggers hitting the scene, but I’m wondering is it really to any avail? I want to take this time on Problogger to analyze the pros and cons of putting the S-word, B-word, or any other X-word that might be whispered into your eat by that devil on your shoulder.

Let’s start with the pros of blogging without cussing:

  • Your blog will have a friendlier, less hostile look. Saying a swear word creates a more hostile atmosphere to the sentence you have just said. This applies to blogging, as well. Keeping your blog friendly encourages people to enter and comment.
  • Your blog will be appropriate for all ages of your audience. Some niches have readers from all age groups, kids under 10 to grandparents in their 60s and up. If you were 12, how would your mother feel if she caught you reading a blog that dropped the eff-bomb every other word? I can tell you little Carlo (from Carlocab.com) would not be reading you. Your grandparents might be downright appalled if they stumbled upon one of your blatant attempts to show off your swearing vocabulary (that is, assuming they know how to use Stumble Upon).
  • Your blog will be more appealing to those who have strict religious beliefs. I don’t want to go too far into this because this always causes problem, but those that believe in a god might be shocked by some words bloggers use in their articles. This population is huge, too, so if you avoid swearing you can attract them to subscribe, as well.

Pro’s of using those naughty words:

  • It is easier to attract a younger audience! This is a bit odd, but some children are just learning these kinds of words. If you show them how to use these words to effectively get link-bait, or how to offend Google for screwing you over again, you might just have them hooked. (I don’t condone showing children how to swear. These are just the facts, baby)
  • Most users online are well accustomed to this kind of language. If you haven’t been hearing the F-word since you were 6-years old, you aren’t from an English-speaking country, or your father locked you in your basement/room/closet as a child. We’ve heard it on the television, movies, plenty of YoutTube videos, and if you want to check out iTunes you can download the latest Snoop Dog album to gain some more knowledge in this phenomenon. Cuss words are a part of our society.
  • Using bad words makes it easier to find your voice. In any kind of writing, you need to find a unique voice. There are less bloggers that I watch in my niche that use a foul-mouth (-fingers?). When something is less common, and you do that less common thing, you are (more) unique! Revelation, isn’t it folks.

I don’t particularly enjoy swearing on my blog, Blogosis. I might throw in an ‘a$$’ or a ‘I3!tch’ every once and a while, but I don’t overdo it. I want to keep my blog open to the widest audience I can. I have studied the demographics of my audience, and a little more than about 60% is in their 20s-30s. They are well aware that all these words are part of daily vocabulary, and probably part of theirs. It is kind of a toss-up. You can swear and cuss your head off, or just avoid it. The easy choice would be to let my hands run wild but I attempt to be a little more retained than that (unless I am talking about Google.)

In order to gain my unique voice, I write a little more alternatively than others in the ‘blogging/writing’ niche. Every once in a while I might write extremely intellectual posts, but I attempt to keep it fresh with humor (which I hope you’ve experienced here). There are plenty of other alternatives to get the same effect as swearing might for some blogs (minus the offensive attitude they admit). Let me make a list:

  • Make it funny. That’s easy. Put a joke in, make fun of Google, or tease another blogger (I choose you, Carlo-mon. Kids are fun). Keep it playful, though. Jokes can get offensive, too.
  • Make a reader smile. Make someone excited to be able to read your post. I love to hear my friends smiled over something I wrote to them.
  • Write about or from something that inspires you. People love to hear what inspires others, because we are always searching for our true inspiration (It is like the question of life, constantly challenging us).

What does Darren tell you in every post? Write original content, write original content, and oh yeah! Write original content. This is the only way you will be successful, so stop linking to bigger blogs that will never notice you, and start some creative blogging!

Whether or not you want to swear is completely up to you, but before you drop the nuke of all destructive words, know your blog’s demographics which you are blogging for. Dropping that bomb on them may lead to a bomb destroying your subscriber count.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Fair enough…;-) And you’ve nailed me… my former life as an English professor is clearly coming out here.

    I do think vivid writing makes a difference in this medium, even if most readers don’t analyze it at the level I do (and I’m now a blog editor). That doesn’t come out of any sense of formality or “correctness,” but, rather, from prioritizing the goal of clear communication. With that said, audience, tone, purpose and focus all play into these considerations. As long as a blogger (esp. a pro blogger) takes both his/her subject matter and audience into consideration, the appropriateness of obscenity (and its ability to communicate clearly to one’s reader) should be apparent.

    With that said, I’m going to get the f**k out of here.. :-) Have a good weekend!

  2. @jeff

    Now I’m laughing at myself because from reading the impassioned defense above, one would think that my blog is peppered with salty prose. In fact, I’m not sure you could find anything that would raise the eyebrows of the most sanctimonious or conservative – well, the conservatives wouldn’t like my politics, but probably couldn’t find fault with my language.

    But it doesn’t bother me at all when I see it elsewhere. Odd and perhaps telling that I defend these words while abstaining from their use myself.

    You have a good weekend also.. I’m reading a new book on Napoleon and am heading off to curl up with that now..

  3. @Anthony–

    That’s quite all right… I, on the other hand, have dropped the occasional “f-bomb”… but very rarely, and (I hope) in accordance with the ideas I’ve laid out. I realize some of my initial remarks here may have made me sound anti-obscenity… not at all… wrote my doctoral dissertation on the work of David Mamet, so clearly I don’t have too big a problem with reading this kind of language…;-)

  4. JHS says:

    I wrote about this not long ago. Got quite a reaction, too.

    For the record, there is no profanity on my site. Ever. No exceptions. Why? Because it simply isn’t necessary to make the point. If you can’t convey the message without those words, you are not a very talented writer.

    Do I watch movies with profanity? Sure. I’m the world’s biggest Sopranos fan. Can you imagine Tony saying, “Oh, shucks!”? Nah.

    But he’s a fictional character. The articles on my site are not fiction. I don’t even write fiction. Hence, there is no place for profanity, obscenities or hate speech in any form.

    Just my policy.

  5. Glenn Abel says:

    I used to work for an entertainment trade publication, written for people working in the industry. For a fairly conservative paper, it had a liberal commonsense policy on swearing:

    If the word occurs naturally, use it. If the quotation includes F–k, use it (and spell it out). If there is no good reason to swear in print, don’t.

    “It’s not a family newspaper,” was the saying on the copydesk.

    This worked out well. I think I set that policy ages ago, and I continue with it on my own blogs.

  6. Thanks for the tips, Justin. Definitely good to keep in mind when blogging. Personally, since I run a food blog (mostly recipes) I don’t really see the benefit of swearing.

    *;; Delilah

  7. Jylan Wynne says:

    @Vic in this comment, are you being sarcastic or what?

  8. Tom Hanna says:

    I’ve used very mild “profanity” a couple of times. If I should ever use one of George Carlin’s 7 dirty words that you can’t say on TV, I guarantee my readers would sit up and take notice. It’s nice to have a weapon in reserve.

  9. The reason why I cuss like a sailor on my (sex) blog is because I actually want to take the shock out of the “bad words”, and just make them “words.” In fact I want to take the “bad” out of lots of words – “fat,” for example. I like to challenge people’s perceptions and open minds, get them to think beyond the knee jerk reaction.

  10. Justin Dupre says:

    Wow. I am so glad I had Darren post this here. I never would have gotten the proper reaction of this SIZE at Blogosis. Simple Amazing! I’ve read most of the comments, and to hear your sides of the stories is really inspiring, for lack of a less cheesy word. I will be jotting down some notes for future posts at Blogosis.

    Thanks everyone!
    Justin Dupre
    http://www.blogosis.com

  11. Justin,

    I’d like to mention another “pro” of blogging without cussing: It makes the blogger sound more eloquent–and more intelligent. Anyone can throw in a bunch of swear words to describe something. That takes absolutely zero writing talent. To be taken seriously as a writer requires the demonstrated ability to express ideas with precision and creativity. The best writers are thought leaders–not followers. Those who continue to use the same time-worn, boring cuss words do little more than follow the crowd–and often sacrifice their credibility in the process.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!
    Jeanne

    P.S. Those of us who object to profanity (at least partly) on religious grounds prefer to capitalize “God.”

  12. @jeanne

    “blogging without cussing: It makes the blogger sound more eloquent–and more intelligent.”

    That’s YOUR opinion. In my opinion, some of the most intelligent and though-provoking people on the web today are not afraid to use the words you don’t like.

    “Those of us who object to profanity (at least partly) on religious grounds prefer to capitalize “God.”

    Those of us without religious belief prefer to use “god(s)” specifically because to us, your god is no different than any other that any society ever worshiped. We see your belief as being no different than that of those who worshiped Zeus, Thor, Quetzacoatl or anything else.

  13. @Anthony,

    Please don’t misunderstand. I didn’t say that people who use profanity aren’t intelligent or that they don’t post thought-provoking content; I merely said that profanity can make a blogger SOUND less eloquent or less intelligent than he or she may in fact be.

    I don’t really think it’s a matter of a blogger’s not being “afraid” to use the words “I don’t like.” The fact is that a blogger can use whatever words s/he chooses; but, as Justin has mentioned in this post, s/he may also alienate an entire segment of the reading public. If s/he chooses to do that, fine. It’s his/her choice.

    And, as I mentioned in my previous comment, it takes little skill to use profanity in place of “real” language–though by that I don’t mean to say that writers who do so are not talented writers. I simply feel they aren’t showcasing their talent to the degree that they might.

    As far as the religious question is concerned, you’re also free to refer to God any way you like. We won’t go into the question of whether “my” God is any different than the other gods in this forum, since this isn’t really the place for that discussion.

    Thanks for your feedback,
    Jeanne

  14. @jeanne

    I quite understand that you said “sound like”. Again that is simply your prejudice – you THINK those words make them sound less intelligent. I have no such prejudice and am free to judge their thoughts for what they are. Who’s better off?

    By the way, it takes little skill to use any word whose meaning you understand. Your condemnation from that slant is completely meaningless.

    You also say that “aren’t showcasing their talent to the degree that they might.” The people I am thinking of showcase their talents quite well. Obviously if you read with the preconceived notion that certain words diminish value, then you’ll see what you expect to see. That’s no different than people who are unaware of language semantics complaining when a non-native English speaker adopts the semantic structure of their native language. It’s not ignorance on their part, but if your unthinking prejudice insists that it is, you will hear their speech as “unintelligent”.

  15. @Anthony,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your views with me!

    Jeanne

  16. @jeanne

    By the way, I have a bad prejudice quite similar to that, so I’m not holding myself up as a better person than you because I lack your prejudice.

    My prejudice kicks in when I see writing peppered with religious thought: my knee jerk reaction is that the writer is unintelligent. Intellectually I know that’s not a reasonable thought at all, but just as you react to the “cuss words”, I react similarly to religious sentiments.

    Either of the “cussing” or “praying” writers could have important and valuable insights for both of us. We sometimes can’t prevent deeply held prejudice from bubbling up, but we can be smart enough not to let it control us.

  17. @Anthony,

    You are right that it isn’t reasonable to automatically judge the person whose philosophy we disagree with as unintelligent–and we shouldn’t. Yet, the fact remains that we all make value judgments every time we read–or hear–anything. And this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

    I also agree that “cussing” writers can have a great deal that’s of value to say, but the reality is that many people will never stick around long enough to read it if it’s presented in a way they find offensive.

    Jeanne

  18. Meredith says:

    I cringe when I see posts peppered with curse words, but not because I’m a total prude.

    I cringe because reckless cursing demeans your writing. One blogger in particular is such a talent, yet her humor relies on well-placed f-words.

    She’s better than that. I just wish she knew it.

  19. Dana says:

    For the most part, I believe swearing is a mark of bad writing. It is used as a substitute for original thought and good writing to illustrate a point. The majority of blogs I read/have read that use more than an occasional swear word are what I would call “lazy” writers. Their writing just isn’t that good, and the swearing is a crutch.

    That said, I have seen a well-placed word here or there that added to an entry rather than detracting from it.

    It is like grammar and punctuation rules. If you know the rules and use them well, breaking the rules can be an occasionally effective tool as well.

  20. @jeanne

    You say “I also agree that “cussing” writers can have a great deal that’s of value to say, but the reality is that many people will never stick around long enough to read it if it’s presented in a way they find offensive.”

    But as I’ve indicated above, the same could be said of people who include religious sentiments in their writings – a growing percentage of people (especially outside of the US) find religious fervor distasteful and embarrassing. Yet I doubt you would take it upon yourself to warn them that their spiritual references could cost them audience share, would you?

    I have a similar prejudice against people who talk about sports, pop culture and the like: it’s almost impossible for me to see them as anything but nattering fools. Other readers may get turned off by flowery writing, twenty five dollar words, “boring” historical references, who knows what? Obviously we are all different,but nowadays I really doubt that “cussing” upsets any more people than anything else might.

  21. Hendry Lee says:

    Great advice, Darren.

    Some advertisers won’t advertise on very these “bad” sites so bloggers may take that into account too.

    -Hendry

  22. Jon Clark says:

    I think the bottom line is there is an audience for both markets. Look at Howard Stern – the guy has made millions by pushing the envelope and using ‘colorful’ language. If that is what your audience calls for or if your audience accepts the occasional or frequent f’bomb than by all means use it. I don’t think there needs to be personal attacks on folks based on their stance … As others mentioned above, if the language is offensive to you find a new blog! There is no point in reading something that is going to infuriate you!

  23. @jon clark

    You are absolutely right, but for some conservatives, it’s not a matter of just ignoring what they don’t like. They honestly fear that allowing this sort of moral breakdown damages society and is dangerous. Those of us on the liberal side obviously have a different view, but I think it would be foolish to deny that the people on the other side of the question come by their fears honestly.

  24. Jon Clark says:

    @anthony lawrence – while I’m far from a conservative I don’t really consider myself a liberal either – but that isn’t really the argument here. I think it comes down to whether or not this is morally reprehensible – to curse or not to curse. This may be jumping waaaay off base but it comes down to ‘does using foul language make me a bad person or make you better than me if I drop an occasional f-bomb?’ For those conservatives out there, there HAS to be more pressing concerns in the world than whether or not a blog uses off color language.

  25. Meg @ HWFL says:

    There’s a difference between using the right tool and coming up with a valid, “gooder” argument in regards to cursing. I curse all the time – I just don’t write it. My mouth and my fingers don’t seem to be connected. “Christianized Curse Words” are euphemisms. Perhaps that’s a euphemism for a euphemism..

  26. Tom Bonner says:

    I don’t use any four-letter words on my blog — you know which ones I mean — and I strongly object to those who say you you need those kind of words to get your point across. If you are creative, you can find all sorts of ways to grab people’s attention without cursing.

    When I come across a blog with cursing I tend to think less of the blog and the writer. To me it is insulting and smacks of poor communication skills.

    The single area where I believe cursing might be acceptable would be an interview with someone who uses that type of language in an extreme setting — maybe an interview with a combat soldier.

    Whenever I see a everyday blog post littered with curse words, I assume it is written by a teen age kid trying to impress me with his offensive language skills. That tells me there is nothing to be learned there and I move on to a site with more intelligent commentary.

    One of the things about cursing is — just like smoking — it is hard to stop once you get in the habit. Consider two well known NASCAR drivers who cursed during different press interviews and subsequently were fined and lost points. In both cases the driver wasn’t trying to offend anyone, they just lapsed into their normal habit of speaking — and it cost them big time.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Tom Bonner
    http://alphatracks.com

  27. @jon clark

    Well, I’m not going to argue with you :-)

    But I think the conservatives are really concerned about the decay of societal mores. I might wish they were more concerned with pollution, medical care and other things I think really ARE important, but “old fashioned values” is a theme that resonates well with them.

    If I want to be a bit nasty, I can sneer and label that as “fear” – conservatives are always worrying about what *might* happen. But that’s a bit unfair: bad things do come from small shifts and while you and I may see language as trivial and truly unimportant, I don’t think that they necessarily do.

    It’s hard to fault someone who really believes that society will fall apart because of bad language, nudity, drug use, whatever. If they truly do believe it, however silly I may find that belief, I have to agree that their intentions are good, right?

    While still reserving the right to laugh myself silly, of course :-)

  28. Todd says:

    Like some other commenters here, I use plenty of “naughty” words in “real” life but not so much on my live concert video blog Jamtopia.

    Not too long there was a YouTube comment about a video that was too good to pass up as a blog title…

    http://jamtopia.com/blog/she-kicks-flute-girls-ass/

    I thought it’d resonate with an extremely niche audience… Phish fans aware of the front-row fixture and gadfly known as Flute Girl.

    Well the post certainly generates traffic, but from my analytics I can tell you they’re not looking for what I’m showing.

    It’s just a bunch of horn-dogs looking for “girls ass” or for people doing naughty stuff with flutes!

    The moral of the story — use whatever type of language you want on your blog. Just don’t be surprised if it draws a crowd you weren’t looking for.

  29. Glenn Dixon says:

    which blog? My personal one, definitely. The rest of them, well – it depends. Probably not as much. More like how I would talk at work.

  30. Lotta says:

    My blog is also my escape hatch. If I couldn’t swear there I would start doing it in real life and it would be pretty.

  31. Justin says:

    It seems like these days, you don’t even have to say the actual “F” word. Although I am an advocate of free speech and 100% against censorship, simply implying an F Bomb is being dropped should suffice.

    One of my best selling designs on my website is the F Bomb design. I sell a F*** load of those T Shirts, Magnets, and Stickers!

  32. Holistic says:

    Lol. I know quite a few people who drop the F bomb quite a lot. Pretty interesting but I wonldn’t use :naughty: words when blogging. Blogging kinda seems like a legit thing.. so keep it legit :P

    unless you are on a rant then drop it like hot sauce!