Are you a digital potty mouth?
By Robert W. 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 critics 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.


Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter with 20 years experience in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has written direct mail packages for Phillips Publishing, Agora Publishing, KCI Communications, McGraw-Hill, Medical Economics, Reed Reference Publishing, A.F. Lewis, and numerous other publishers.