I didn’t hear my Mum swear until I was 13 years old. Ok, that’s not strictly true. I did hear her swear, but she did it in a different language so I didn’t KNOW she was swearing. But yeah, back to the story. We were travelling overland from England to Malta. A family of four and a lot of personal belongings in one Citroen Estate, camping our way across the continent before we moved to Malta in the summer of 1994. Ahhhhh, I remember it well.
The thing is, Mum is NOT a camper. She’s a luxury hotel, comfy bed and hot dinner kinda person. Not a crowded campsite with two-man tents in the pouring rain, heating a tin of baked beans over a camping stove kind of lady. In her defence, it was a stressful situation. She didn’t speak a word of French. So, as she tried to wash her dishes in the sink, the small man shouting at her in that dreamy french dialect was causing her stress levels to rise.
I walked over as the only French speaker* in our group to see what the matter was. As I managed to decipher the rants of the arm-waving Frenchman who was gesturing the sign stating these sinks were for washing clothes in, not dishes, something in my Mum snapped. Her skin now flamed in a beautiful shade of puce and she sent the plates and cutlery scattering across the grass. Her arms, in an act of pure Mediterranean gesturing, flew up in the air and she roared, “I’ve had it up to FUCKING HERE!” I should point out this was only our third night of a two-week journey across Europe. Ho-hum.
PSA: Oh, by the way… this post WILL contain swear words.
The point is, a well placed swear word can offer so much more to your copy than you might think. So, if you’re deliberating the pros and cons of swearing in your copy and marketing right about now, get your feet up and read on. Shit’s about to get real!
Expletives Express Emotion
Sometimes there’s no better way of describing how awesome, or how happy, or how excited you are than to insert an f-bomb to get your point across. That’s part of the beauty of a swear word!
A swear word just makes things funnier. I can’t explain it any better than that! An expletive from an unexpected source or used in an unusual context can be enough to make you chuckle. And when it comes to your copy, the occasional laugh is never a bad thing.
Bold + Confident
Someone who dares to use a few swears in their copy is confident in the words they’re using. Otherwise, they wouldn’t use them, would they? I’m more likely to engage with a confident content maker than someone wavering around in indecision.
Keeping It Real
There’s a train of thought that suggests using swear words in your copy is keeping your copy real and genuine. My thinking is it sounds less “stuffy” or staged than copy that chooses not to use it. Mostly because it suggests a level of comfort in being able to use swear words with your readers. I didn’t say ‘fuck’ near my parents until I was in my early 20s! I knew once I swore near them that I was confident and comfortable to say whatever I wanted around them.
Connecting To Your Audience
I’ve talked about speaking to your audience before. And if your audience is the kind who will appreciate the odd swear or won’t feel offended by it, then go for it. If, on the other hand, swearing in your copy is going to turn your ideal audience off, then you might need to rethink how you use it!
…Or Not To Swear
Your Brand Might Not Allow It
If you’re a family run business selling cute clothes for kids, the likelihood is that using swear words in your copy is not going to work for you. Kinda obvious example, but you get what I mean right?
Some People Won’t Like It
The thing is, swearing is a divisive topic and some people simply don’t like it! You may have strong reactions, people expressing offence or choosing not to buy from you or work with you. If you’re not ok with any of those possibilities, then you should reconsider your use of swear words in your marketing.
A Negative Effect
Unfortunately, swearing is occasionally used for more negative purposes. Calling someone names or swearing at them is rude, offensive and aggressive and I’m certain no one wants this for their business.
Cool, Not Cool
Swearing because it’s trendy. Not cool guys. If you’re using swear words in your copy because “everyone is doing it” or you think you should be to stay on-trend, then you’re better off NOT using them. Would you smoke a cigarette because it’s “cool”? (I’d hope your answer would be no to that these days!)
There’s Always An Alternative
If you’d like the casual conversationality of swears without full-on committing to a few fucks, shits and bollocks, why not use some of the more PG-rated colourful language available?
A few of my favourite suggestions:
Ultimately, my advice is always going to be to go with your gut. Think about your brand and your usual clientele. Don’t use swears against people. But if it comes naturally as a way to describe how fucking awesome something is and those people who gasp in horror and click off your site don’t bother you, then go for it, say I!
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* I use that term loosely. I was 13 and two-thirds of the way through Tricolore Book 2. My French was about as passable as a pigeon speaking pidgin-English.