When we set up a blog, we usually contemplate who our audience will be.

And, based on our subject matter, it’s normally an easy guess.

You may picture others, in the same age group, with the same mind set, frequenting your blog.

Today’s Lesson

Can you imagine, getting a comment, or email that goes something like this:

Dear B. L. Ogger

I am writing to you on behalf of our university.

I was recently informed that for the past two years, one of our professors has been using your blog, and the information you provide, for reference material. He has been instructing his students to go on your site, as the information appears to be very accurate.

Unfortunately, several of the parents of our young “gifted children”, informed me that your site, though informative, is filled with profanity.

I am writing to let you know, we will be blocking your site from all university computers. The professor has stopped referencing your site, and is in the process of locating new, profanity free, sites to reference.

As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I would like to remind you that many young children are going online, and reading blogs. Although your site does not contain any nudity, the profanity is too extreme for young children.

Sincerely,

I. M. Thedean

I admit, I will not frequent blogs that contain gross profanity…not the kind that is “bleeped out” with ****, or “lightweight swear words”, but sites that spell out “four letter works”.

Although those authors may think their audience are from the same age group, and they write like they speak, I think we have to remember that our blogs are published in cyberspace, and anyone, of any age, can (and may) read them.

That means, a seven year old could be reading your blog…. it could be your own child, or grandchild.

Call me weird, but I think about this.

Parents wonder where their children learn swear words. Often, they will admit, it is from school, from others, or from the computer.

In this day and age of children growing up too fast, I don’t want to be a contributor to their bad language habits. Nor…do I want my site blocked by a parent.

Am I saying that I’m a prude, and don’t swear. No. If something sets me off, or I stub my toe, I’ve been known to let out a few curse words. But, I don’t feel my blog is a place to write them.

Today’s Assignment

Are you proud of what you write?

Have you ever thought that a seven year old may be reading your blog?

Based on what you write, might your blog be “blocked” by a concerned parent?

Do you care?

BTW: I do not tolerate profanity in my comment section either. I moderate all of them.

To compliment this post, read an article written by Catherine, titled:“Are You Exploiting Your Child For The Sake Of Your Business”, in which she addresses the issue of posting your children’s pictures on your blog.

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Look Who's Talking
  1. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – Thanks for the link.

    Wow – the site in question must be kicking themselves. Imagine having information that was deemed good enough for gifted children to use in their studies then losing the traffic because of some silly swear words. Not to mention also losing the respect of others.

    I must admit – I overuse a word beginning with A alot although I do bleep most of it out. It’s a word I picked up from watching many American comedies. But, people from other countries view my blog and it might be offensive to them, so I always bleep.

  2. The blog in question is apparently “filled with profanity,” and that’s pretty easy to avoid for anyone who wants to. But then we have the gray area of the “lightweight swear words.”

    I know a very respectable guy who would oppose bad decisions by saying “that’s retarded.” He used this word just for emphasis, but stopped doing it after he decided that it could be very offensive to some people. It makes you wonder what words you might be innocently saying that could upset someone.

  3. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hello Catherine and Hunter,

    The “site in question”, is fictitious (note the names). The reason I addressed this issue, is due to the fact that many parents block TV shows and websites…due to violence, profanity, nudity, etc.

    What’s to say, a parent wouldn’t block a blog?

    Hunter, that’s interesting how the guy stopped using verbiage, thinking it might be offensive. That was probably a smart move, as he may want to appeal to a larger audience.

    For those of us who worry about offending others, I think it’s best to just use simple English, and avoid using “colorful (?) adjectives”.

  4. Oh, I thought it was real, and you just changed the names. You had me convinced!

  5. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:

    It’s a very valid point. While I very much doubt the blogs I write will be viewed by a younger audience, I have largely avoided swear words (must double-check!).

    Where I believe I may have used a profanity, I have bleeped though. I think it may be a case of getting the balance right.

    I think you can go too far, and equally alienate though. I wouldn’t advocate strong or regular use of swear words. And I think bleeping is prudent anyway.

    But I do see a place for straight-talking and emphasis. Although this can still be attained without extremes. I’m tempted to provide a list of acceptable bleeped swear words, but don’t feel this is the place to do so!

    And its probably a very subjective area and does also pose the question of cultural differences – where perhaps a swear word is more universally accepted in one country than another.

    It’s very tempting to do a blog-post on just that topic with a list!

    But equally dangerous. As some potentially unacceptable words would need to be published – albeit bleeped to gauge the reaction.

    Any takers?

    I know someone who liberally uses swear words. Without the bleeps. Think I’ll head over and see what he says – any guesses who that is Cath?

  6. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hunter,

    Glad I was convincing. šŸ™‚

    Ian,

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with bleeped out words, however, some might. And no, don’t post a list in my comment section. šŸ™‚

    As far as acceptable words, in different cultures, who knows? But, with our blogs being read world wide, I would rather not take a chance. Granted, it could make some blogs sound rather boring if they eliminated the swear words, but maybe some bloggers would concentrate on better content.

    Hmmmmm! Do you think people would actually search for curse words?

    Although some believe they can say whatever they want, (freedom of speech), I do worry that computer savvy, young children will land on our blogs (even by chance), and deem swearing to be acceptable, as it is “written words”. I would hate to see that happen, as they are growing up too fast as it is.

  7. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    I also thought it was real and you just changed the names Barbara!

    I see what you’re saying though – there’s a huge risk of kids landing on our sites and if they see supposedly respectable adults swearing, then they’re going to think it’s ok.

    Sometimes I worry when I see arguments going on in some bloggers comment sections. They attack each other and use profanities without ever wondering who they’re speaking to. And quite often I suppose, it could be a child.

    Now, Ian – I know exactly which blog you mean. It seems to happen most often when he blogs about politicians and bankers – I think he loves them as much as I do.

  8. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I am concerned as to how the internet can influence others.

    Comment sections can raise some spirited discussions, however, as part of blogging, we may encounter arguments/profanity in our comment section. As blog authors, I think it’s our responsibility to moderate the comments and filter what is seen by others.

    Since we can delete/disallow comments, sometimes it might be easier to avoid posting them on our blogs An email to the author of the profane or extremely argumentative comments may become necessary. If that doesn’t work, just mark those comments as “spam”, and/or block the IP address.

  9. I refrain from using swear words on my blog for many of the same reasons. The fact is, I don’t like to be around that language, I don’t want my children to use it, and I don’t think it adds anything to any blog that uses it. Then again, I feel the same way about leet speak. Improper language dumbs down a blog and disrespects the intelligence of readers.

    I’m always disheartened to remember that one of my highest search engine hitting posts ranks high because I used the word suicide. The hits come from people wondering how to kill themselves. The blog has nothing to do with such a topic but that lesson has made me very aware of the power of words and keywords. I’m also very concerned by the content online. Don’t we, as a voice of the people for the people, have an obligation to make the online world a safer, healthier and overall nicer place to be?

    Rebecca Laffar-Smith’s last blog post..An Australian Writer’s Australia Day

  10. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Rebecca,

    First of all, welcome to my blog.

    You know how I feel about profanity, and like you, I worry about the children.

    That popular post of yours had to be a real eye opener when you realized why people were finding it. How would you have known? That’s a great lesson you’ve shared.

    And yes, we should all try to do our part to make the internet become a safer, healthier and nicer place.

    Barbara’s last blog post..Does Your Blog Resemble A Soap Opera

  11. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Oh my goodness. I would hate to think people looking for a way to kill themselves had been visiting my blog. That must be an awful feeling.

    Tim Ferris did a post on suicide recently, so I’m wondering if he’ll attract more of the same?

    I’m going to be setting up a resource for people with depression, or ptsd this year and that the thought of suicidal people posting and me not being able to help them is a big concern.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..From Ā£1 Million To Bust: How To Turn Your Business Round Again

  12. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I like your idea of setting up resources for those with depression or PTSD. I know you have gone through it, so you have genuine empathy for others.

    I think that’s where those keywords play an important role. As with children ending up on a blog that has adult content, those in dire need of help could end up on yours as well. When you set this up, you might consider covering all of the bases, and have help for all levels of depression.

    Barbara’s last blog post..Stop The Press – Iā€™m Dying To Share

  13. […] I wrote about profanity in blogs, today, I’ll discuss language of another […]

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  16. FormerlyFunNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, I certainly hope we don’t all start writing our blogs with seven year olds in mind that would make for a pretty one-track reading experience. Additionally, I have three children and I write a blog that is for an adult readership. There’s millions if not bazillions of patently offensive and marginally inappropriate content out there. In the sea of all the pornography, my seven year old running across the f-word or comparable is the least of my worries. My seven year old has already heard ‘the big seven’ at school and we have had numerous discussions talking about why we don’t use those words and the consequences of doing so(as a preemptive not after the fact). It’s called parenting. Parents need to put computers in communal spaces where kids know you could be behind them at any given moment. They need to employ parental controls. If your kid is savy, it’s your job to get savier. Block my website from your kids–please. I don’t want to limit what I write because someone else isn’t parenting & helping their child navigate the dangers inherent in such an open forum. The internet is no different from any of the other media. We don’t produce movies and songs, or write books exclusively for a general audience. As difficult as it is in this day and age to moniter the messages that reach your kids, it comes with the job. Expecting authors, comedians, commentators, and the like to do it is irresponsible as far as free speech goes and just plain lazy parenting.

    FormerlyFuns last blog post..We Would Be So Much Cooler If We Didn’t Have Kids

  17. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Formerly Fun,

    I do agree parents SHOULD be monitoring what their kids read or have access to, but some don’t/can’t or don’t believe it’s an issue.

    Should all blogs be written with seven year olds in mind, absolutely not. Blogs enable us to use our freedom of speech however we choose, and that’s what makes blogs unique and interesting.

  18. […] I wrote about profanity on this blog, (which wasn’t meant to be controversial). It got the most attention. Not so […]

  19. axecityNo Gravatar says:

    I was led to this post by one of your latest post, I am glad that you are linking to your old posts as I think it was really a good chance to read this one which I consider to be one of the ethical rules of writing online.

    axecitys last blog post..Tech support for all products in one place

  20. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Axecity,

    I’m glad the link lead you to this post.

    Unfortunately there aren’t iron clad rules for writing online, so people post whatever they see fit.

  21. […] When profanity hurts your blog […]

  22. […] wasn’t because the blog was laced with profanity, nor was it due to the site sporting too many […]

  23. hyrcanNo Gravatar says:

    I’m always proud of what I write, sometimes I wish I could have been more eloquent or spelled a word correctly the first time… but I’ve never posted anything I won’t stand behind. What’s the point in writing anything if you’re not willing to take ownership.

    That’s not to say that due to my not being as clear or eloquent as I wish that my meaning wasn’t misconstrued. But those errors are generally easy to correct, assuming the other party is receptive to your corrections and clarifications.

    I’ve though that lots of people might stumble on my blog, in fact I know a seven year old that has stumbled on to my blog. That doesn’t change what I write on my blog. It’s my blog.

    That same seven year old might go into a borders stumble across a human anatomy book, a discarded girly mag, or for that matter some other form of literary genre that contains the occasional swear word or worse.

    Hmm, I said the F-word in a title a while back, have used “bad words” in posts, speak out in support for gay rights, and, being an atheist who went to a private ‘christian’ school, often express my dissatisfaction with the religious status quo and private school “standards” of education. I’d suspect a parent may find any number of reasons to attempt to block my website from their children.

    If a concerned parent wants to block my website, or any website, that’s their right as a parent, though I would caution parents on using to heavy a hand on things like censorship. It’s easy to fall down that dark path… Not to mention kids when told explicitly they can’t do something will often go out of their way to do it, or find something even “worse” in the eyes of their parents.

    You might guess, correctly, that I don’t care if a parent attempts to prevent their child from seeing my website.

    “BTW: I do not tolerate profanity in my comment section either. I moderate all of them.”

    This I also totally respect, I look at comments like coming over to someone’s house as a guest. If they don’t want shoes on the carpet, or feet up on the couch, I’m not going to disagree… that’s just rude. So if it’s a site I don’t know for certain who doesn’t mind a colorful word or two, I’m not going to go wild with it. Even if I can’t help but wonder how they can comfortably watch a good movie with out stretching out with the feet up on the couch.

    I will say though… the CommentLuv plug-in makes me have to remember what my current title says. šŸ˜‰ One of my first posts over on Momgrind had me a bit embarrassed afterwards when I remembered what my current title was… Luckily either I remembered to uncheck the box but forgot I did… or Vered caught and removed it. *blush* Rotten first impressions always haunt me…

    hyrcans last blog post..More Than Just A Number

  24. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Hyrcan,

    Thank you for respecting my unwritten comment “policy”. You’re right, when we visit other blogs it is like visiting their home, and we should respect the blog author’s wishes.

  25. Amazing article! Detailed and very interested. I am going to recommend this blog to my friends.

  26. […] Most Controversial PostL (Created motivation for other bloggers to write their own posts on freedom of speech) Blog Losses Massive Traffic Due To Profanity […]

  27. chrisNo Gravatar says:

    I find it amazing that in a world where we can vaporize whole cities without a thought and people get all bent out of shape by a four letter expression which after “the” is probably the most used world in the English language. And is probably without doubt the most used word in the world. So we should restrict our knowledge base because a site contains a so called swear word. Imagine you are out for a leisurely drive and some twat rear ends you. What do you think the first word out of your mouth will be? To think that a word is alright to say but not to write is is is,,,, I guess I’m lost for words.

  28. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Chris – I’m guessing you and I are from different generations as four letter (curse) words are not the most used words in my circle of friends.

    What others say, read or write is their prerogative. One great thing about blogs is, as blog authors, we get to set the guidelines.

  29. StephanieNo Gravatar says:

    When I was looking to fly to Sydney from Perth, I looked up Virgin on the net. This took me to the wrong kinds of sites. Virgin Blue wasn’t my first impression of the name of the company; I found it under Virgin Airlines. Why did he choose to call his company, Virgin? We will never know.
    Cheers Stephanie