Since I just blogged an example using F-words, I thought I better clarify — quickly — what I meant in my previous entry.I’m continuously amazed at the amount of foul language that emanates from keynote speakers, managers, public emails, CEOs, and pretty much anyone who steps in front of an audience. In many cases, it’s clear that the speaker went out of their way to use a “special” word when another would have done just fine. It’s not apparently limited to education, gender, theology, or position. While I long since gave up being offended by other people’s use of language (foul or otherwise), as a communicator I just shake my head that a person with a key message would allow such things to slip out. Simply put, unless you’re purpose is to try to get the attention of the blue-haired lady in the back row of a country Baptist church, there is simply no reason for it, and the risks are great.And the principle goes beyond just potty words (side note, my son was using the seemingly ubiquitous terms for bodily functions the other night. We’ve worked hard to train the kids that such talk is “bathroom talk”. Son responds, “but dad, I’m IN the bathroom.” And so he was. Time for a new euphemism.) At the sales presentation I blogged on a few weeks ago, the salesperson passed around cover art for a product that was apparently targeted for the 16-year-old male audience. Totally inappropriate for the business world, even moreso with the mixed (and older) audience he was presenting to. When there’s doubt, don’t.Maybe you think un upside-down DAWN occasionally spices up your point, or truncating “hello” at 80% completion gives emphasis, or concatenating the universal call for quiet with the word “it” provides color, but the fact is, you’ve likely offended someone in the audience, and you don’t know who, or how much. George Carlin and Howard Stern excepted, if your attitude is, “the prudes, what’s up with them”, then I wonder if you care about your message. Remember the first rule of messaging — it’s not about you, but about them. One word could scuttle a referral, a sale, an image, or an impact.Million dollar decisions have been made on less. There are too many legitimate ways to lose business, attention, and respect. There is no need to risk one you can control.
Keep your language clean. Don’t risk anything that would lose your audience.