Are you a digital potty mouth?

May 12th, 2014 by Bob Bly

One of the worst things about the Internet is the anonymity.

Reason: because anyone can post or e-mail without revealing
their identities or facing those they communicate with, people
on the Internet think they can say anything to anybody – and get
away with it.

A case in point: on a popular blog, a contributing author wrote
an otherwise excellent article about digital marketing in which
she said something she tried worked “like a mofo.”

I commented that, in my opinion, she should have communicated
her ideas without using an abbreviation for an obscenity.

I was widely attacked by the blog readers for being an old
fogey, conservative and out of touch with the time.

Incidentally, shortly after the incident, the blog suspended
comments. I do not think I am the cause.

Anyway, I was tempted to humorously reply “%&^(&* you” but
refrained.

One of my critiques wrote: “Can’t believe you’re such a whiney
bitch on the blog post where the word ‘mofo’ is used.”

Maybe I am, but I was raised in a generation which, I believe,
had slightly better manners than the current one – though
perhaps I am delusional.

For instance, when I communicate with someone I do not know, I
don’t call them a bitch.

People love swearing and do it frequently, but they and I differ
on when and where cussing is appropriate.

I contend that in articles published online and offline on
business topics, it is completely unnecessary, and people do it
primarily to look cool and hip to their counterparts.

But by doing so, they turn off a large segment of their
readership, me included … mostly the 50 and over crowd.

If you are a marketer, I would warn you not to alienate
oldsters, as we control most of the money in the United States.

A survey reported on the Joshua Kennon web site found that
households where the head was age 35 and younger had a median
net worth of only $65,000.

By comparison, households where the head was 55 to 64 years old
had a median net worth of $880,000 – nearly 14X richer.

I have the same objection to gratuitous swearing in media other
than business blogs, by the way.

For instance, I find Chris Rock very funny. But his use of f–k
every other sentence is wearisome.

He may do it for effect, but listen to his CDs … they would be
just as funny without the F word, in my opinion: it adds nothing
to the humor.

I admit there are some comics who use occasional cursing to
good effect, George Carlin being one of them.

And I also admit the F word can enhance a character’s emotion in
certain tense movie scenes … though if he says it every 2
minutes, it again becomes tiresome.

But I believe swearing has no place in business or marketing
writing.

Of course, if you disagree, I suspect you will flip me off … and
keep on doing it.

Just remember: for every complaint you get, there are probably
dozens of readers who also don’t like it — but are not speaking
up.

So the number of people you alienate may exceed the number of
those who think you are “with it” and groovy for cussing.

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 12th, 2014 at 4:18 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 responses about “Are you a digital potty mouth?”

  1. John Kelly said:

    You are right on target with this.

    I’m of the same generation as you and also have grown weary of the overuse of cursing.

    Swear words, because of overuse, have lost their ‘punch’. When I was a child and my Dad used any kind of swear word, and it happened rarely, believe me we kids took notice!

    Nowadays (doesn’t that make me sound like a geezer!) cursing is the norm.

  2. Roman said:

    seems like Sonia Simone’s “about-the-author-footer” got to you…

    the only question is – why do you even care?

    besides, she had deleted the footer with “converting like a mofo” before they disabled the commenting option

    it affronted my ear pretty much sounding like a first-class bragging, but she’s Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media, a high-flier of great heights, obviously

  3. Cindy said:

    Having class is never out of style. There are those of us that consistently maintain high standards in all we communicate because it’s the way it should be. Professional writers, In attempting to relate to a younger audience, don’t need to dumb it down or scrap common courtesy for effect. Touche’.

  4. Bob Bly said:

    Roman, being CCO does not give Sonia a pass on good manners.

  5. Wayne English said:

    Bob,

    Thank you for this post. I thought that I was the only one who resents vile, vulgar, totally unnecessary language on the net. I always tell my students not to use vulgarity in their writing as it makes them look ignorant.

    Intelligent people have no need to resort to vulgarity in their writing. No need at all.

    Further, it can be highly insulting when writing for an international audience, to conservative or religious people. And those folks will never hire you or give any credence to your words.

    Wayne English
    President
    WebContentRx.biz

  6. Trudy said:

    Thanks for putting this in writing. My friends don’t swear, I don’t swear, I don’t like it in movies, and I think people who have to resort to swearing to express their thoughts never gained much of a vocabulary. And if it’s in a blog or website, it’s a big turnoff for me. I usually don’t go back.

  7. Don Wallace said:

    I saw the exchange you had with C***H*****s on their blog.

    The issue here is a huge cultural shift with the millennials and their infatuation with being “extreme”, special snowflake uniqueness, and having fun 24×7.

    So this person’s defense, directed at you, is: “Do We Have to Write to Please Everyone? The insta-answer to that question, for this copywriter, was and is HELLZ NO!”

    She seems to be saying that her use of cartoon swearing is some sublime self-expression that keeps her true to her audience.

    As a copywriter you have to crawl inside the head of your audience. Millennials in particular have a big problem with believing that everyone should be (or is) exactly like *them.* Ultimately, much maligned Boomers like us respect those who are different than we are. Millenials don’t give a crap (sorry!) and believe it’s funny to offend.

    And part of this attitude is the mentality of the “Hacker News” message board where this person came from. HN is populated by corporate drones who want their young egos stroked.

  8. Bob Bly said:

    If I read Don correctly, he is saying that Sonia was wrong. Reason: she does not understand that her readers are not all like her. She may be a Millenial, but I read Copy Blogger and I am a Boomer.

  9. Curtis W. White said:

    Hi Bob,

    I definitely hear what you’re saying.

    When you’re trying to sell, alienating even a small portion of your audience with off-color language probably isn’t the best move.

    But, like every ‘rule’, it has to be broken every now and again. If for no other reason than to reconfirm why it’s still valid.

    Thanks for your insights, as always.

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