3 Questions to Ask About Offensive Content on Your Blog

Disclaimer: Please note that the following post is purely my own opinions about the subject at hand, and I’m not trying to tell anyone how to run the show on their blog. I am simply offering another perspective and some things to consider before putting objectionable content on your blog.

There has been what seems to be a surge of bloggers who are getting into the “shock and awe” side of blogging by going against the grain with some relatively colorful language, explicit images, and controversial stirrups.

The question isn’t whether these tactics work at drumming up comments, social shares, response posts, and recognition for the authors as the heroes of free speech because for the most part, they do. The real question is, after the feathers have been ruffled and settle back again, will it be worth it?

Questions to Ask Yourself

Everything you choose to do with your content really depends on your purpose for blogging – what you hope to obtain, not just from one post but as a whole from your blog. Here are some simple questions to determine if you are on a good path.

Who Is Your Intended Audience?

Let’s first think about your intended audience. Are they just regular people who enjoy a little bit of everything? Are they businesses who are looking for great advice to share with their employees or clients? Are they your clients or potential clients? Are they people who you influence that would want to emulate you?

What Are Your Blogging Goals?

Next, let’s think about your goals in blogging. Are you just trying to see how much traffic and comments you can drum up? Are you looking to make waves or change the way blogging is done? Or are you trying to drum up business for a company, whether it is your own or someone else’s?

Would You Want Your Post to be a First Impression

Think about the most potentially offensive, controversial, line-crossing post you have on your site.

Now think about that being the first post that someone will read visit on your blog, and essentially their first impression of you.

Going back to your answer about your target audience and your goals, would this be an acceptable first impression for that audience that would lead to the achievement of those goals?

Will People Tell You If You’ve Crossed the Line?

In many cases, no, they won’t. They’re going to unfollow you, whether it’s your Twitter, RSS feed, Facebook, or whatever other channel where they normally interact with you. Or if it’s their first visit, they will probably just not return.

What’s worse is you’ll probably also miss out on a lot of recommendations from people.

Why? Because whether anyone likes it or not, reputation is sometimes based upon who you recommend. And if someone doesn’t want to be seen as offensive or controversial, then they are not going to share things from those who are considered offensive or controversial.

So if none of the above things – reputation, business prospectives, referrals, positive personal or professional brand exposure, etc. – matter to you, then you have no worries when it comes to expressing yourself any way you choose. Just realize that, depending on what you want to accomplish with your blog, you may be doing more harm to yourself than good while trying to be cool.

Am I Suggesting Censorship?

No. I’m not, by any means, saying that you should censor yourself. Of course, I don’t think of watching your language and your content as censorship so much as being courteous and professional to others.

One of the common arguments for writing anything you please on a blog is that it is your personal space, your home, so to speak, and you can do or say anything within your home.

But blogs, unless they are private and only accessible by specific people you have approved of, are really not just in your home or personal space. The Internet is public. To me, it’s like living in a glass house in a well-populated area. Anyone could walk by, hence I probably wouldn’t want to walk around naked or do anything that I wouldn’t want someone else to see.

Your blog is the same thing – anyone could find their way to your site. What would you want them to see?

When it comes to what I share, I have seen posts that I would LOVE to share with my fans because of the great message within them, but I simply don’t because they cross that special line of offensive. Because my fan base includes 13 year olds (yes they’re on Twitter), family, coworkers, Christians, and others who I would not want to direct to something that is inappropriate.

It’s not that I can’t because I know I have the right to share what I want, but I also consider that by sharing something, I have stamped my virtual seal of approval onto it. Just like I wouldn’t want to endorse a bad product, I wouldn’t want to share something that would offend my readership.

Your Thoughts on Borderline Offensive Blog Content

Now I turn the discussion over to you. What are your thoughts on blogs that post objectionable content? Do you like them or veer away from them? Where do you think the line is between being personal with your audience and being professional? The comment lines are open!

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Comments

  1. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever used any offensive languages or pictures before hm.. The most “offensive” one was probably when I posted that I admired Carrie Prejean, one of the miss USA participant some years ago? on my blog. Got a few trash comments (as always whenever you talk about Christianity I guess lol)

    That was when my blog was more personal than now (I don’t post personal life stuffs anymore compared to last time)
    Michael Aulia just posted CM Storm Sentinel ZERO-G Review

  2. says

    Hi Kristi,

    Well, I’m a newbie in this blogging world & I too hate offensive blog. Actually, many of the bloggers nowadays write one controversial blog post in their blog so that they’d get thousands of visitors through viral marketing. Their main aim is to spread their blog name, you can find various offensive blog post about SEO where the blogger lacks knowledge of SEO & writes anything came into their mind where one of the member from the industry have to take the stand.

    As you’ve written not only from blog but also from social sites like facebook, twitter one can damage their reputation. Recently, one incident happen with me where I’ve submitted a guest post to Ana Hoffman but after several days when I’m not getting any reply I tweet her that you are taking too much time which she replied with don’t talk with such language, actually it was just misunderstanding where she taken it personally but after that I wrote her tweet apologising & the matter solved.

    Really, if you writing offensive post, tweet or anything just for visitors you are going to loose all the visitors next time you write a post.
    hyderali just posted Social Media and SEO – Why Bother

    • says

      Hi Hyderali,

      Good points… some posts which people do consider shocking will get a lot of initial traffic, but I’d guess they also get a lot of bounces from their site along with unsubscribes. So then the question is, was the traffic worth it?

  3. says

    For me, some blog post, content or images can be offensive if we look it that way. I mean, lots of people look into something in such different ways. Some people might find an image or blogpost offensive and to others who might read or see it, may find it as a form or art or simply artistic.

    I hope I get my message here cause I am lost with words to further explain it. =)
    RonLeyba just posted Macy’s 4th Of July Fireworks 2011

    • says

      I get what you mean Ron. Everything is open to interpretation, and one person’s tame could be another person’s offensive!

  4. says

    A blog is an extension of a person’s personality to some extent, and if that person wants to offensive content, then this is his choice. Mine as a reader, is not to read it.

    A friend of mine says that democracy is the right to do what you want as long as you don’t offend anyone.

  5. says

    Well, creating a (very) offensive blogpost will earn you alot of traffic and comments. However, indeed, it creates a very bad rep, and will bite you back later on I believe. The only way you can get away with it is if the offensive articles are part of what you want your blog to be. For instance, if you create a blog which is about famous people, and you write offensive posts about them, you will receive a very specific audience, and that can work, for that blog. However, I wouldn’t link it to anything else I’m doing, nor to my own personal profile anywhere, since these kind of things can seriously hurt your image in everything else you do.
    So, my idea? I don’t think we need some kind censorship? No, not really, I think people who do not want to read that, will only read it once. But is it a good thing? I don’t think so no…

    • says

      True Bjorn. I’ve actually seen some of those celebrity blogs go the route of being full on insulting of celebrities, trying to get a lot of shock value out of their posts, then turn around and tone it down because they realize they’re no longer getting cooperation or interviews from any celebs because of their rep. One in particular, now that they’ve changed their presentation of celeb news is now doing much, much better.

  6. says

    Hey Kristi,

    I guess the key question for me is “who are you looking to attract” with your blog? If you don’t care and just want to rant, then write whatever you want. I have the option NOT to read your posts or follow you.

    But if you’re looking to attract a certain kind of person, especially for business than you had better watch what you write. For example, I am looking to attract Baby Boomers or others who are working a full time job and looking for an exit strategy.

    Why would I want to write an obscenity-laced post that may offend some of these wonderful people, just to satisfy my own need to vent? I don’t think it would be prudent.

    As you say, this is just one person’s opinion. There are those that will say they can write whatever they wish, and that’s true. Just be careful what you wish for!
    Dr. Bob Clarke just posted 5 Surefire Ways to Alienate Your Blog Readers

    • says

      Good points Bob. I watched one blogger in particular whose posts were 9 rants out of 10. They wanted to get business and make money from advertisers, and that never happened, and I’m almost positive it was because the only people they attracted were ones that just wanted to complain along with them, but nothing more.

  7. says

    “Offensive” is in the eye of the beholder.
    Personally, I’m not the least bit offended by “dirty” words, nudity, sex talk, etc.
    I am, however, highly offended by a lot of the small-minded opinions casually expressed by the most “respectable” of people. For instance, I once picked up a book called something like the “good clean joke book” which advertised itself as inoffensive humor that could be enjoyed by everyone. I found it full of casual, insulting stereotypes of anyone outside of the author’s very ideas of “normal” (essentially, small town conservative Christians).
    Ultimately, anything you say or write will be considered offensive by somebody. The key, I think, is to be honest with yourself and your readers: if what you really believe is offensive to some people, those probably aren’t your ideal readers anyway.
    YogaforCynics just posted Difficult Yoga-Difficult Yogis Building From the Ground Up- Part Two

    • says

      Haha, I’ve seen those kinds of books too! It’s subtly offensive, based on who you are and if you fit in the author’s demographic. I don’t think anyone should try to mask their insults with humor though – I know people who do that in person too, and it’s pretty awful.

  8. says

    I agree 100%, the negatives outway the positives when it comes to attacking negative posts. The worse part is you won’t know the effect right away.. but you will in time when the regulars to your blgo stop coming, when your posts don’t get the attention they used to before.

    Now you blog is your blog and do what you want with it.. but before going the shock road think of the possible negatives.

    Like you said.. yes it’s your blog, but once you have a following, you have to respect the people that read your blog and give them the information they came to you for.

    Now if you are cool with losing people, then write what you want when you want how you want.. but if you have real blogging goals, if you plan to become a pro blogger, then you have to bring some responsibility to what you share. you have to bring some common sense to what you share.

    This fits bloggers who “normally” share reg great content… now if your a asshole all the time on your blog and people follow you because your an asshole, then please continue to be an asshole all you want :)
    John Paul just posted 6 Things Social Media Can’t Do For You

    • says

      That’s one route to go John Paul – take a look at the people in blogging whom you want to be as successful as, then look at how they communicate with their audience. I guess we all have different role models, but I know that mine are all very professional, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them cross any offensive lines. And when they have, there has always been a nice long apology post after the fact.

  9. says

    Offensive language or questionable content has always been in my mind somewhat complicated as to whether it has a right form of using it or not. I mean there are times that a four letter word just “fits” in a phrase, but not with the intention to actually be disrespectful to anyone. All in all, blogs or websites are public and even “children” can see them, so I always stay away from the use of “harsh” language. Just my 2 cents
    DiTesco just posted Google In-Page Analytics- Your Personalized Heat Map Good For Business

    • says

      Yep… you never know when someone might be reading your blog and their kid pops onto their lap and goes “Daddy, what’s ___ mean?” Then that person might have to start thinking twice about what they’re reading on the internet, including your blog!

  10. says

    Hey Kristi, I think it’s really a question of how necessary is it to communication. Sometimes, the message won’t come across the same way by “toning it down”, but other times (often times), foul language is just an excuse for lazy writers. I think it comes down to authenticity – if you really need to use it to convey your message, then you should – but usually you don’t. Does that make sense?
    Danny just posted Why No One Can Go It Alone-The Real Meaning of Blogging

    • says

      Makes sense Danny. I don’t think I’ve ran into many times where I felt I must get the expletives rolling to get my point across, except when maybe quoting something someone else said. Even then I try to blank it out with some fancy symbols. And really, I don’t even mind it just once throughout a post. But once in every other paragraph may be going a bit too far!

  11. says

    Hey there Kristi,

    I’m a firm believer in authenticity. That means writing as you speak. That goes for guest posts as well (which you’ll know, having commented on Dino Dogan’s recent post over on my blog).

    As I wrote in a follow-up post, I lost a few readers because of my stance. And that’s fine. It has nothing to do with not respecting readers as it has to being true.

    Say I read Chris Brogan’s blog. Chris is careful not to cuss on there. But when he speaks, his language can be colourful. Same with Gary V, or Erika from Bitch Slap Blog (though she cusses it up magnificently on the blog itself).

    If I don’t expect Chris (or any other blogger) to cuss in person, and then they let rip at a professional event that I’ve paid thousands to attend, what does that say? That maybe the blogger wasn’t who I thought they were, and it changes my mindset of them?

    I’d rather go for authentic voices as opposed to sanitized any day. I agree that those who offend or cuss just for shock value are lazy. But anything else is fine by me.
    Danny Brown just posted How To Guarantee ROI On Your Biggest Business Investment

    • says

      I concur with you Danny.
      A true voice is what captures readers and if writing is a reflection of self, then the audience I want to attract will find their way. If foul language is used to convey a stance or give life to a character, then I’m all for it.

      I personally write for adults, not 13 year old children, so if they are trolling the net and find content that isn’t suitable for them, is it the site owner’s responsibility to police and monitor the content or the kid’s guardians?

      Did I mention I’m in full agreement wit Danny?

      Nice food for thought post Kristi. Thanks…

      • says

        I think I get that you agree with Danny on this one Brad.

        And true, you’re probably not writing with the intent of being read by kids. That’s the same thing I thought when I started blogging, until I realized that there’s a new crop of young teens that are becoming online entrepreneurs who are reading these types of blogs on business and marketing strategies to get better at their business. I’m not even going to get started on how jealous I am of them considering I was working at Subway at their age. But that’s beside the point.

        So in reality, we are influencing a whole new generation of upcoming business professionals, and I’d like to think that my blog could serve as an example of how to stay 100% professional and get your point across so there isn’t a whole new crop of bloggers who think each of their posts is in the running to be picked up as a new series on HBO. :)

    • says

      Hi Danny,

      Thanks for stopping by and weighing in on this one! Just for the record, although your post got me thinking about writing about this topic, it wasn’t your post that really made go “ok people, this has gone a little TOO far in the trying to be offensive department.” Said post had obscenities sprinkled through, at least once per paragraph, and they didn’t really help drive a point home at all so much as make me wonder how the person expected to get any business, considering they were marketing themselves as a “business consultant.”

      One thing I will say about in-person vs. online is that if the person knows someone pretty well, I can see them getting a little more laid back and colorful when it comes to their language. I guess it’s just because I look at it as I wouldn’t cuss in front of a total stranger, and I consider doing a speech or writing a post with the possibility of being presented to complete strangers. Now if I were in a room with 12 other people that I knew personally, might I let one or two fly? Possibly, if it really helped make a point. But a lot of the times, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference I don’t think.

      So authentic, yes, I can agree with that. I guess I have always thought of writing as something that was supposed to be cleaned up to be more proper than daily conversation, but maybe that is a more academic / professional / journalistic outlook, and blogs are tending towards a more casual style now.

    • says

      I agree Lou… I think that good guys definitely could be successful and don’t have to get their readers into shock therapy to get their points across!

  12. says

    My goodness, serendipity. This post came into my inbox just as I was pondering over whether to blog about “Go the F**k to sleep?” – a bizarre, parent’s take on the nightmare kid non-sleeper. I blog in the parenting arena and it’s a really tough decision since the book brings up all sorts of issues around parenting taboos but I certainly don’t want to offend anyone by including the f word in my posts. + actually the book is just IMO riding on the hype of including the f word and isn’t very good – apart from the great illustrations. Anyhow, in this context it’s an interesting dilema.

    • says

      Interesting dilemma indeed Fiona. I would think when targeting the parenting audience you would have more of a chance of someone’s child walking up and potentially reading the post with the parent. I know this because I remember as a kid when my mom was studying for her course work, I’d actually pull up a chair and try to read the textbook with her. In this day and age, I could see it easily being me reading whatever she was on the computer, and I’m sure that before I hit a certain age she would feel it necessary to not look at any sites that would run the risk of vulgarity that I might pick up.

      In your case, you’re not really using it as an obscenity, but rather it is part of the book itself. So that is tricky!

  13. says

    I really have to echo Danny Brown’s statements that it is about authenticity. Many bloggers (and other sites) are simply using profanity, images and other means as a sort of shock and awe to get a click. The Huffington Post is famous for this using titles like “Brittany wearing no pants”, where said picture is Brittany in shorts.

    I have no problem with profanity or images as long as they are in context. I do use colorful language in my posts when they are needed, to make a point or to make sure that the reader understands that what I am saying is serious Sh&*, this can many times have a greater impact than saying “this is serious, pay attention”.

    Just like my blog, when I speak to groups, I may use a colorful word or two (1 or 2, not 10 or 20) or I will imply the word in a number of ways to make a point and jar people into attention. It can be effective and it can work, as long as it is done correctly and the reader/attendee understands.

    The use (or overuse) of profanity, highly charged subject matter or objectionable images to get clicks works in the short term, but in the end, if the writing and writer are good, people will keep coming back, if they are not, then a little bit of naughty is only going to get you so far!

    • says

      Hi Keith. Titles like the one you mention are another one of my pet peeves – leading into something that isn’t really true just to get the clicks. I have found that if a site does that enough times, I stop going because I’m not longer interested in their titles, assuming that I probably won’t get what I was going for anyway.

      One to two times when it comes to profanity is something I probably don’t even notice. When it gets to the point I’m noticing though, then I feel there’s an issue.

  14. says

    You don’t know this most likely, but I have read your blogs for a LONG LONG time. I follow you on every twitter account I create. I have since you entered the world of twitter. I don’t comment on your blog, because there is never anything to say and I don’t believe in making useless comments just to show my face. I suppose I am breaking that pattern today – mainly cause you left me a nice comment :)

    As usual I have nothing left to say. As far as I am concerned you are the definitive authority in all things you post. You are spot on with every aspect of marketing I have ever encountered. You may realize this or you may not, but you naturally have a gift of understanding marketing on a level most struggle to achieve and you have since you first began.

    You are a true inspiration to everyone.
    Bruce Bates just posted A true journey – a mind blowing experience

    • says

      That’s good to know Bruce! I kind of like knowing that there are a lot of readers out there who may never come out (except when I run a contest). It makes it especially nice to know when I’ve written something that does draw them out into the comments. I really appreciate your kind words, and I’d suggest to anyone coming by these comments to go read your post – I can’t image that they wouldn’t have something to say about your plans as well!

  15. says

    I have a pretty steep line for things I find personally offensive. Really language has to be intended to “hurt” rather than just being “forbidden words” before it will bother me.

    (sticks and stones and all of that)

    That being said, I agree with you. I tend to avoid foul language on my site. I might let something. “borderline” go if it makes sense contextually, but I am cognizant of the fact that many people do find language offensive.

    Sometimes, though language does add a note of authenticity. I read the previous comments about some sites pandering to this. Sure, I see that.

    But I still think language, for some blogs, can add to the style.

    One of the big differences is content. A blog about “personality” should blog how they talk. If they drop “F” bombs with regularity in speech, it is disingenuous to do otherwise in the blog.

    A “professional” blog on the other hand is completely different. Of course personality plays a part too, but the FACTS are what is important. In that situation, like professionalism at the office, foul language detracts or draws away from the lesson, which should be of primary importance.

    I try to make my blog professional hence… no language. (except perhaps comments, which I do not filter unless they are rude or mean-spirited)
    Steve just posted THE Definitive Guide to Tracking an Internet Business Part 1

    • says

      That’s a good point Steve, one that I wanted to make in my post but I couldn’t find the wording for it (it was late). Sometimes you might have a great point or lesson, and foul language will do nothing but draw attention away from that point. Definitely what you don’t want to do in your content is drag attention from the main focus to something that is really not that valuable. And I’m the same way about comments – so long as it isn’t going to far, then I’ll leave it alone. I have had a few where I emailed the commenter and let them know that I would have to either edit out their 5 expletives or not post it due to the nature of my site. Those few times, the commenter said that it was ok or went back and “rephrased” themselves, and every time it was for the better.

  16. says

    Kristi,

    I posted the comment below verbatime on Valeria Maltoni’s blog (http://conversationagent.com/)

    But I thought it was very applicable…

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. The difficulty today with my generation is the need for approval.

    College age adults are seriously damaging their reputations and setting themselves up for negative consequences in their future with the way they behave on Facebook.

    There’s so much content that we share and yet we don’t stop to think about the rest of the world’s access to this information. (I’m guilty of this as well.)

    I’ve come to realize the importance of calculating what you say before you publish it because once it’s there… generally, it’ll never go away.

    This reality has seriously forced me to think about what my priorities are, who I want to be associated with, and how I want my future children (and grandchildren, and great grand children, and so on…) to view their father.

    Theoretically, all the information we publish about ourselves is always going to be available.

    So, I thank you for being one to start waving the cation flag. This is an important message for my age group to hear.

    I’m certainly listening.

    Best,
    Chase

    • says

      Very true Chase! Some people may not think they things they write now will be available, but I can tell you that personal blogs that I wrote almost 10 years ago are still available online in archives even though the sites themselves are long gone. Might make people think twice about what they say now.

  17. says

    I loved this post! Everyone is different in how they convey their message. I don’t think a blog should be given the “hands-down” because they don’t speak they way “you do”. Like with music, you can always change the station if you don’t want to listen to it. On my blog, I tell it like it is, and it works for me. I am not trying to write for the masses, I get my point across and if you take it rude, that is something you need to figure out.

    I do however, love reading all kinds of blogs and it is amazing how different we all really are. Isn’t that we are suppose to do? I sure has hell don’t want to sound like the next person because then I would be called “Fake, Phoney or a Copy cat”. You might even catch a “some-time” curse word in my content because that is just how I feel about certain situations…blah blah blah!

    Just be yourself because not everyone is going to like you. I am not going to roll over and die because a select few people think my blog or someone else’s isn’t professional enough. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Sonia just posted Let me Slap you Upside the Head with this Tidbit- “Focus on the journey- not the destination”

    • says

      Sometimes isn’t a bad thing Sonia, and if there were just sometimes blogs out there, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But I’m noticing that some seem to be trademarking themselves by throwing out one foul word after the other. Sure I can tune out of those sites, but what I worry about is if others will start to emulate them, like “maybe I’ll be a top blogger if I start writing like them.” Then before you know it there will be a much larger market of NSFW content out there in the blogging world beyond just the personal bloggers.

  18. says

    Excellent way to approach this topic Kristi, it can be super sensitive to many that’s for sure.

    As for the shock and awe bloggers that do it solely for the views and for the negative “bonus” traffic, I don’t take them seriously and typically move on quickly. I see a rise in this with images being used in blog posts and I’m sure that there are plenty that can find numerous images on my site that they wouldn’t prefer to see. In my case, I believe in freedom of speech and expression and more importantly believe that my blog will serve as something to look back at and see where I’ve grown.

    All though the business I am in relates to sexy woman and people feeling great about themselves I still try to keep things under some sort of control. I don’t post things that the associates that work for me don’t want posted and there’s never anything less then what you would see on a beach. This doesn’t mean that’s how it’s been forever, heck I use to receive half naked pictures of people holding fan signs or that made custom swimwear with my name on it, those are on the risque side, but they are also from the past. I don’t post them anymore as I don’t feel they fit my business or the message I want to put forth with my blog.

    Who knows, maybe when I’m a crazier old man I’ll get back to the shock and awe, but for now it’s not in the mix of things and I don’t have the energy for it. Haha
    Extreme John just posted 10 Cloud Computing Services for Small Business

    • says

      Very sensitive John!

      I think that different businesses cater to different audience and in the tanning industry, the scantily clad are a lot more acceptable. Knowing that going in, I was never really surprised when I saw the bikini babes on your posts. :) But it’s also interesting to see you shift your blog to more of the serious side and make a success of it!

  19. says

    Hi Kristi,
    You bring up great points for all bloggers to consider before they venture down that path of offensive content.

    My blog is very upbeat and encouraging in nature so I stay away from those topics to begin with. It’s not the image that I want associated with my blog, and you make a great point about the likelihood of turning away first time visitors.

    I’m not about to tell anyone how to run their blog but I choose to keep away from anything offensive.

    Stacy
    Stacy just posted Can You Blog Like a Star on a Budget

  20. says

    Hmmm. Do you object to Chaucer? Twain? Salinger? Even though little Junior might have popped into Mom’s lap and seen an offensive word in one of their books, I’m glad they didn’t settle for the least upsetting word in place of of the right one.

    • says

      I have a feeling some of the bloggers I had in mind when writing this post have little chance of becoming the next literary genius Tara. Not saying I do either, but if the writer had spent a little more time working on their spelling & grammar and less on figuring out where they could easily splice another obscenity, then they might have a better shot at it! :)

  21. says

    There are two types of blogs (and forums for that matter), offensive/controversial, and not.

    1. For the non-offensive I don’t see any legit reason for one single offense post, ever in any niche.

    Note: You can easily have controversial without being offensive, but again as someone said, there an be interpretations. As long as it is somewhat obvious that you don’t mean to be offensive, you can pretty much ignore the whiners. lol

    2. Controversial to the point of offense blogs: Some thrive very successfully. what’s the big difference? They are that way from post #1, touted and promoted as such; everyone knows it before they hit it.
    Dennis Edell just posted Attention Commenters- VALID Email Addresses PLEASE!

    • says

      You can definitely be controversial in a positive way Dennis – I’m always a fan of controversy and going against popular opinion when done in a respectable way. And it also has to do with marketing yourself one way or the other – like I expect to find something offensive on certain sites because that’s just how they are. It’s not like conservative post, conservative post, conservative post, and SURPRISE offensive post.

  22. says

    The nature of your blog would dictate how you write. If you are a colourful individual running a personal blog, expect to see all sorts. If it’s a business blog on the other hand, a level of professionalism must surely be kept!
    Matt just posted Legitimate Work At Home Jobs

  23. says

    I think a lot of people who employ “shocking” or offensive language are doing so solely for the traffic they believe it will generate. It’s an age-old concept: go against the grain. Whether you truly believe what you’re saying or not is irrelevant when the goal is to simply be heard. This strategy is employed by all sorts of media personalities who have made their name by saying shocking or offensive things (Ann Coulter comes to mind…).
    Spouting negative B.S. simply for attention can help you get noticed in the short-term, but over all I believe it’s harmful to the discussion, and has a coarsening effect on the dialogue.
    fred just posted 5 Computer Organization Tips for Your Home Office

    • says

      Definitely Fred. In the long run, there will be less people that respect you and your opinion if you express it offensively!

  24. says

    Kristi

    I’ve got two problems with the kind of use of the F-bomb and other swear words that you’re talking about – it’s a lazy, inefficient use of the rich variety of the English language, and the constant use of those words strips any meaning from them.

    Overuse of those words tends to obscure the actual meaning of the paragraphs that they’re contained in.

    Now let me totally transparent here, when I SPEAK – and I’m talking with friends – I swear wayyyy too much. But I was taught the importance of every word – and that words are a writer (or blogger’s) tools. And you don’t use a sledgehammer to bang in a tiny nail – instead there’s a specific sized hammer that does that job.

    And often that’s what I think is happening with the overuse of swear words – it’s using the wrong tool for the job. When you use the wrong words, your writing loses some of its effectiveness. As it loses effectiveness, it loses its clarity.

    So you might end up losing readers as much because the use of swear words has leeched your writing of some of its clarity and meaning.

    Coming back to me, my swearing is sooooooo bad that my wife is often haranguing me for F-bombing in front of the kids. But go check out my blog and I’ve clocked up over 100K in words and sure there’s a few craps and crappys littered around – but there’s only one F bomb.

    And I spent 45 minutes trying different words in that sentence. None of the alternatives I tried had anything like the power of the F Bomb, (and I knew it before I tried), but I looked anyway.

    So those words HAVE got a valid use. But if you overuse them when they’re not contributing, when you do want to use one to make a point with an explosion you’ve effectively ruled that out of your toolbox.

    Plus – this might be controversial, I don’t know – but a lot of the use of swear words that I see in blogs seems to me to be exactly the opposite of authentic. To me it seems to be contrived. Almost to be the blogging equivalent of ‘the shock jocks’ on the radio.

    Words in the right combination can create magic – Nancy Duarte touches upon it in Resonance (without meaning to). Her analysis of the ‘I have a dream’ speech is worth the price of admission (and it’s a great book too.) If you can find footage of that speech on YouTube go have a listen to it – and hear the power of those carefully, chosen words.

    Now imagine someone standing up and saying: I have a F***@@ Dream.
    Totally different speech. And the magic’s gone.

    For me, if you’re a blogger then you’re a writer by definition. If you’re a writer then your primary goal is to deliver your idea with as much clarity as possible. 99 times out of 100 using swear words reduces the comprehension of your idea or message. Even though when I speak, my ‘authentic’ voice is laced with swearing as a writer/blogger I want my ideas to be understood.

    So I don’t use swear words unless they add to the writing. Period.

    That make sense? (it’s getting late on our side of the pond).

    Paul
    Paul Wolfe just posted How To Blog More Efficiently

    • says

      Hi Paul,

      Yes it does make sense. I was always taught that your writing should be a cleaned up version of the way you talk, mainly because you talk differently with those you know well in person and you write for a much broader audience including those you wouldn’t normally speak so casually with.

      I have also had the same feeling about foul language I see on some blogs – it wasn’t placed there to drive a point home or to quote something significant. It was put there just to draw the “he said what?” out of readers.

      I think for the most part that when a curse fits into writing the right way, you won’t notice it as offensive but simply a part of the flow of the discussion.

      Nice to know you went to the effort to really know if the one f* bomb you dropped really drove home the meaning of your post, and only used it once you determined it was the only option. I think that would be a great exercise for writers to try – I know I do that not necessarily for curse words but just regular words I’d like to find a better, more meaningful replacement for and it helps in expanding my vocabulary!

  25. says

    “They’re”. Someone was going to do it. ;)

    I think you raise a really good point here, and one that I’m concerned about myself. I work hard to craft each entry on my blog, and shock tactics have played a part of my earlier posts. In fact, I’m tempted to go back into covering more adult subjects, but I’ve strayed more into general creative writing exercises of late, which has attracted a different audience. I have to decide, now, whether to risk losing them by featuring more graphic content- as that’s how I’d describe a lot of my new ideas.
    Matt just posted We all do it right

    • says

      Haha, good catch Matt. I thought you mean the “They’re” I used was wrong, then I found the wrong “their” in there. Will get that fixed after I reply. :)

      That’s a tough choice… I guess it boils down to which is more important – the audience you have now or the one you would have by shifting your content as well as which audience do you want to maintain for the long run.

  26. says

    I wont use offensive language or images on my blog. The yardstick for me is that my Mum reads it and if its offensive to her then I wouldn’t post. A simple yet effective test for myself.
    However it depends upon the intended audience I suppose.

  27. says

    I’ve been know to drop an expletive every now and again but it’s not something I do on my blog, except maybe my LoadofBS blog ;)

    Truth be told I think that using foul language is becoming the norm these days and the fact we’re exposed to it on a daily basis isn’t helping things any. It’s like comedians think we won’t laugh unless they drop the F bomb on a regular basis. Too bad we don’t see things like Abbot and Costello’s third base routine anymore, now that was funny.
    Sire just posted The Secret To Online Success Is Passive Income

    • says

      I don’t think you’ve ever used it on your main site in a way where I noticed, hence it was probably just a little here or there and not just blatantly offensive. :)

      Abbot and Costello did do some awesome stuff with comedy in a fully family friendly way. The who’s on first sketch never gets old! :)

  28. says

    Well….Wat’s hot sells.. right? That’s pretty much the tag line which a large part of the media goes by… It is no surprise bloggers are using the same strategy as well… But in my intent, in the long run it is not such borderline offensive content that will make your blog a hit. This might give you the views and visitors for some time, but what about consistency and maturity? Isn’t that real growth?
    Ramya just posted How to make a Reverse Glass Painting

  29. says

    Hey Kristi,

    I agree on many levels. While there is a huge part of me that thinks socially reinforced “rules” are stupid, there are some that, depending on the direction of your blog, and other factors you mentioned, we should certainly follow to a degree.

    I think it’s good to, at the very least, maintain a semblance of professionalism. I think it should be balanced with pushing the envelope a bit, provided you’re clearly spreading a message of value and don’t have attention as your prime motivation.
    Ryan Critchett just posted A Social Media Mind Hack

  30. says

    Hi Kristi,

    You’ve presented a very comprehensive and thoughtfully considered position on what I believe is a complex issue. As a blogger, I want to be authentic and appreciate that others have the same goal. As a marketer, I know how critical it is to know your audience before publishing any type of message.

    I think you’re right that offended readers probably won’t say anything–they’ll just quietly unsubscribe. When I come across a post I find even mildly offensive, I simply don’t read it. I give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that the next post will be great. However, when offensive posts become a regular pattern, I unsubscribe. I’ve only unsubscribed to a few blogs that offended me, but it wasn’t due to language–I found the images on the blog to be outright sexist.

    Bottom line: We need to think carefully about the content we publish and make decisions that fit our individual blogging objectives. Great analysis.

    -Marianne
    Marianne Worley just posted Why You Shouldn’t Put Out Fires at Work

  31. says

    Once again, I love the approach you take here, Kristi. It’s not that you can’t, or that it’s wrong, but it’s what’s best for your target audience. It’s easy to lose sight of this as the latest fad in blogging or social media is being touted. Yes, it may work; however, will it drive the right type of traffic to your blog.

    I’ve been in the same situation as you have, Kristi. Someone writes a great post, but I can’t share it because of the title or some of the language. It’s rarely necessary for either because the writing is good enough to stand on its own merits. As a father of a 7 year old, I chose not to visit sites that do this regularly rather than have to explain to my son what those words on daddy’s laptop mean.
    Brad Harmon just posted How Do You Respond When Your Small Business is Attacked Online

  32. says

    Well, for me my blog is almost for adults but of course can I stop those young teens to come to my blog. Most probably I can’t. Look, the “Internet” is an open space, it is up to personal to decide whether or not he or she want to expose whatever naked stuff he or she want.
    You might think your fans had child or young dudes, and you post something for them, what do you think your older fans think of you? They will think, is this for kids? They got angry, they left.
    So what does this means, it means you cannot write for every single race and every age point or anything you could think off.
    What I really mean is, you do not have to care whether or not your audience is a kid or an old man, you doesn’t had to care whether or not your audience is a girl or a boy, you doesn’t even had to care whether or not your audience is which race, all you need to know is your “market”
    Once you know, you just need to give solution to problems in your market and that’s where trust and money will appear. Look does Micheal Jackson, think his fans are children? no. He do whatever he want and he sing whatever he likes, but still his music is accepted by most people in the world.
    So, tell me… do you think we need to even care who we are writing for when we are paying for the hosting and marketing?
    Wong Chendong aka The Bad Blogger just posted How to Get What You Want With What You Have in Blogging

  33. says

    What offends one person may not offend another. I don’t think a little language is a big deal as long as it is not excessive. Regular evening TV talk can be a bit vulgar at times. If it is acceptable for evening TV I don’t see a blog or any other post that falls into a similar language category a problem. Going to the extreme or out of the ordinary is another story and depends. I’ve never seen a blog that was over the top, but I’m sure they are out there. Forum or message board sites seem to get out of hand and ugly often. Probably partly because they aren’t moderated much and posts and replies go live instantly. I’ve seen it happen on Facebook numerous times too. I guess I figure keep it pg-13 or under.
    Ray just posted Tools of the trade

  34. says

    Hi Kristi,

    I agree with the points about maintaining professionalism, being mindful of your audience, and remembering what we say — and how we say it — will last longer than we can even imagine now. Colorful language, for the most part, should be reserved for private encounters, preferably with those you know (and who know you) well.

    That said, I’m not offended by a few cuss words here and there in writing. I’d prefer to see the stronger ones bleeped out a bit, but I can take them in the spirit they are given. Can’t say I ever read many blogs where the words used on a regular basis would be ones you wouldn’t want your granny to hear.

    I actually wrote a blog post a few months back with the H word in the title. After a good bit of back and forth as to whether or not it would be considered offensive or unprofessional, I just let it ride because it seemed to fit.

    Thanks for the lively discussion!
    Vernessa Taylor just posted Timers – Not Clocks – Make The World Go-Round

  35. says

    Hi Kristi, good thought-provoking post. I’ve also had to think twice about commenting on certain blogs and retweeting posts because of some of the language used.

    I suppose it all depends on your audience and what they’re comfortable with. It can be a problem to determine this though, especially if your target market is a broad one. For example, small business owners; some may be happy to read the odd swear word while others may be really offended.

    My personal approach is to avoid any swear words, even if I think they could be used. I wouldn’t swear on the phone to a client so won’t do it in my blog either.
    Jamie Fairbairn just posted The Only Way to Get Better at Blogging

  36. says

    Kristi, I just want to quickly say this was such an awesome and respectable article. There needs to be more voices like yours in the blogosphere, and I share your viewpoint here in every way. And in my case, my 10 year old girl reads every blog I post—I’m not about to allow her to see me in a bad light with my writings.

    Way to go lady!

    Marcus

  37. says

    Hi, Kristi.

    I really dig your message here and agree with your points wholeheartedly. However, I also go with Danny about authenticity and would like to say that I wouldn’t mind sharing something with cuss words in them as long as I know that people can benefit from it.

    I don’t mind people using colorful language like Dino’s post on Danny’s blog. I don’t use them myself though, in my posts or even while talking with my loved ones or friends. But, sometimes when I get to read an amazing post that may have some swear words in the title or in the content, I do try to look beyond the swear words and share it. That’s what I did with Dino’s post and that is why I was with Danny the whole way when he wrote a follow-up post about it.

    Now, you could say that this goes against the grain of my not cussing at all, as sharing something with cussing in it looks like I approve of it in the first place. Maybe, but I also don’t want to limit myself and my community to something safe and peaceable when there is some rockin’ content out there that may just have some cuss words in them. That does not mean though that I don’t think about my kids and the possibility that they might read something like it because that’s when my responsibility as a parent steps in and explaining time begins. :)
    Kim Davies just posted Showing Your Design Concepts through 3D Rendering

  38. says

    Hi Kristi

    Very very interesting. I have majorly scaled down my visits to blogs over the past and even before then have actually not run into many offensive blogs. Perhaps I am just sheltered ;)

    But I agree with so much that has been said by you here and many of the other commentators. On the one hand people need to realize that the younger generation today is reading a lot of it and what kind of an example are we setting. On the other hand we don’t want to suppress authenticity, it can always be my choice to align myself with the material for me and not visit blogs like that.

    I guess in the end it is a fine balancing act, but starting with the questions you pose is a great place to begin with.
    Evita just posted Getting Real and Getting Honest – 2012 Is Not For Everyone

  39. says

    I work on the theory if it offended my mother, then I don’t write it. If I didn’t write anything because it offended my husband then I would never have started blogging!

    Taking into account who your audience is is important, on our multi author blog content is varied about a vast range of subjects, we go from sensible headlines to tabloid / national enquirer style headlines. A quick peak at our front page will show that.

    I can’t understand why someone would want to continually blog offensive articles, it seems somewhat self defeating.

    Perhaps a guest post from someone who has the offensive blogging strategy would be useful, and if you don’t wish to share it here, I’ll post it.
    Sarah Arrow just posted Men intimidated by tits workplace shocker!

  40. says

    Hi Kristi, I agree with you that we must consider the type of audience we wish to attract… and the expectations of those we have managed to capture.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally square or straight laced… in fact I am pretty open. I do know however, and prefer to stick with the common sense fact that polite is always acceptable and offends nobody. Naughty is not always nice, even if it’s light hearted.

    I like to be safe and respectful, I feel it’s a road of lesser risk!

    Thanks for starting this interesting discussion!

    Jayne
    Jayne Kopp just posted Do You Remember to Count Your Blessings…Often Enough

  41. says

    I see this post was written to be a ‘coolant’ on the recent rants and counter-rants going around but the argument still goes on …….

    This is one topic where everyone has their own views and it tends to heat up arguments sooner than later whenever the issue springs up .

    In my personal opinion I will have to agree with the points you made whole heatedly , its like you almost read my mind! Imagine a situation when a potential lead/client is surfing the blog just to get a hang of what kind of person the blogger is and whether he/she fits as a good addition to their team and they stumble across a post with bad language- BAM! First impression down the drain ….. Their opinion about the person would be that if they wanted to hire a person who give priority to personality over professionalism then they might very well start looking in internet chat rooms……

  42. says

    I’m in total agreement with you, Kristi, but I will call it censoring oneself. I’m not close to a prude if you ask me but I’ve never uttered a curse word in my life. I see it here and there in other places and I get to decide if I feel it’s inappropriate or not. I totally stopped reading Gary V’s stuff because of the language; I think he’s doing it for shock value and thus I refuse to be shocked, if you will.

    There’s probably a time and place for it all but you and I both know that every person that says “but that’s the way I talk” doesn’t talk like that all the time. They all find that they censor themselves in certain situations, whether it’s in front of their parents, children, people they work with, clients, church, etc. Why do those people deserve better than anyone else?

    Though I can’t remember the guy’s name, there was someone who, a couple of years ago, had a lot of videos on his very popular blog with a lot of cussing and such. Suddenly one day his blog was gone, and when someone was finally able to reach the guy he admitted that some of his clients found his blog, hated his language, and canceled their contracts with him. And his contracts were in the six figures; major lesson learned.

    Every person has the right to say and do whatever they want to do if they’re prepared to deal with the consequences of their actions; I firmly believe that, and of course it’s a major principle of our Constitution. If it shows up on any of my blogs I censor it out; deal with the consequences. If you lose business, or people castigate you for it, deal with the consequences. Don’t argue “hey, I have a right to…”; everyone else has a “right to” as well. Wonderful post; thanks for the vine. :-)
    Mitch Mitchell just posted Is Your Work Worth Nothing

  43. says

    I’ve read a number of posts on this lately Kristi, on language and content, on graphics and profanity and what constitutes ‘offensive.’ I agree it’s something each blogger has to think about and.. now that you mention it, there have been a few times I have NOT shared a post (even though I commented) b/c something did tip a little too far.

    I’m thinking it and rethinking it, still cannot help but sometimes write a dirty word. Or yes I could help it, but there are times I think it ‘works’ or fits a post. And yes I accept that it may offend, chance I take. (BTW I changed my comment luv link, one without profanity.)

    One blogging example people use is Gary V, who from the vids I’ve seen… it’s not an act, just his style which he admits to needing to clean up a bit. Just as he runs the risk of alienating would-be clients and customers, IDK.. I think as a student of marketing and social media, I run the risk of missing out on some smart advice b/c it’s NSFW or might be offensive. Very much a ‘to each his/her own’ thing. FWIW.
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