In the question Automated word filter - Block or Edit the content?, both the OP and one of the answers seem to deliberately avoid swearwords. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Since this StackExchange site is about moderation, I expect that certain questions will be about swearwords or use swearwords to illustrate what is or is not acceptable.

The important question for us is, should we encourage (use them ourselves) or discourage (censor ourselves) the use of swearwords, where appropriate? Encouragement could result in swearwords being used abundantly, whereas discouragement could result in making questions about swearing appear awkward.


When the purpose is to define a list for discussion, yes, that's fine. Use the code formatting and use MANY WORDS that are not too offensive, don't use one word. Here's an example:

An appropriate automated word filter might contain keywords such as the following:


Similarly, this is not a good example:


[hehe, I got the word pussy in a post]

See the difference?

As brought up in the comments, there should never be a reasonable time to use a swearword in the post title itself. This is important on SE for many reasons, such as when we twitterify links, or when people are searching on google, etc. Also, it does not present the site as a professional resource. Hopefully that helps give better guidance.

  • Your examples are very clear, but I think that a lot of questions will not be that clear. For example, should I say "A user refers to another user as cocksucker" or should I say "A user calls another user names". Or, with regard to the post I referred, "Should I replace 'bad' with 'b**'", or "Should I replace 'fuck' with 'f***'". – jornane Jul 29 '14 at 20:07
  • What I think is really an edge-case, is this quote from the referred post: They might just do something like this: F * * * (with the actual letters; I'm censoring this here). Is the self-censoring here necessary or over complication? – jornane Jul 29 '14 at 20:09
  • 1
    Excellent questions for clarification, in this case I would encourage swearwords to be used only in the body of the post, not in the title, and not in the very entry of the post, but after a few sentences to describe the problem. Lastly, if the case is "one user is calling another cocksucker" I think that you can provide words AROUND the problem, and not say specifically cocksucker in your post – jcolebrand Jul 29 '14 at 20:09

This is a PG13 site, the use of swear words is not disallowed. Swearing for the sake of swearing (flaming) is obviously not allowed, but if it's part of the legitimate discussion, I see no reason to disallow it.


Another option would be to use the built in spoiler feature:

>! spoiler text here


  • +1 I was one of the answerers on the original question and my answer does contain a plethora of bad words; I hid them with the spoiler tag. The words are key to the example and the spoiler keeps them from being blatantly thrown in your face. – Jason C Jul 30 '14 at 2:45
  • This is a good idea, but keep in mind that the googlebots will still consider those as part of the page. – jcolebrand Jul 30 '14 at 16:40

The existing answers are overcomplicating the issue. Swear words aren't disallowed on Stack Exchange, as long as they're handled professionally.

As long as swear words are included for a constructive purpose, they're fine. If they're not for a constructive purpose, they should be removed.


I'm the answerer (is that even a word?) of that question. I censored that because I personally like to avoid swearing as little as possible. What you do?: I don't care.

I'm not one of those people who will edit every instance of a swear word out of a post, but I personally don't like stamping my [psuedo] name on my post with "explicit" content. I denied an edit that just removed the * because it didn't add any new content to it. Also, some people don't notice the "edited" username there and they think that I posted that. Above all, it's a really minor edit.

  • "I censored that because I personally like to avoid swearing as little as possible." eh? ;P – JohnB Jul 29 '14 at 23:34

As one of the answerers on that question I can say my post contained a plethora of swear words, which I hid with a spoiler tag. The words were key to the point, and I think we are mostly adults here. However, the spoiler tag keeps a huge collection of such words from being blatantly thrown in a readers' face (or the face of somebody reading over somebody else's shoulder).

This really is a case-by-case thing.

I see no reason for a hard-line "no curse words, period" approach, especially on a site about moderation where the topic will come up.

Keep in mind that some of the real primary reasons for discouraging curse words are:

  • To keep the tone of the site at least somewhat civilized.
  • To discourage outright offensive statements targeted at other users or readers in general.

As long as these goals are being met, I don't believe there is an issue.

I think there's no reason to discourage the use of curse words in general, because usages in poor taste will be blatantly obvious. We don't really need to define any sort of special policy, or label encouraging/discouraging usages as "good" or "bad" ideas. If somebody comes and posts something blatantly offensive, it will get flagged away by the community - often quickly.

I like to think we're adult enough here to recognize when curse words are harmful vs. when they're just innocent key components in a conversation.

In fact, to go on a bit of an off-topic mini-rant, I think that sometimes certain cultures' tendency to over-censor such words ends up doing more harm than good because it prevents people from developing the ability to recognize harmful vs. innocent usages.


I see no reason not to avoid using swear words if possible, for example, in the post you mentioned, the lack of using swear words did nothing to complicate the understanding of the question or answer, so I believe that was proper.

If, however, there is a question or answer than necessitates including swear words, there shouldn't be a problem with including them either, as long as it is a necessary part of a valid question. It should also be constrained to the post body rather than title to avoid broadcasting it in to links and notifications.

I'm not sure that the spoiler feature is really necessary since anyone involved in moderation is going to frequently see vulgarity, but it also doesn't hurt anything to use it either. I don't think it should be a requirement to use it though.

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