I'm a person who finds posts with bad language/profanity unprofessional and offensive. When I see a post on SU with the f word or similar (better/worse) I feel the site is let down for allowing it.

However, I am going to assume that SE doens't have a major issue with it because posts with bad language do not appear to be marked as such (and it would be easy to detect the text).

I have read that in our profiles the SE team accepts profanity but not on the main site itself (although I can't find that post).

Whilst if I had my way I'd delete these posts straight away, I appreciate it's a better approach to edit the post and remove anything offensive. After all, any one of any age can and should use these sites.

Should the SE sites automatically flag posts with swearing (for SE team to decide which words are considered worthy of flagging) and automatically add these posts to the review queue?

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    I always edit them out given a lot of people are visiting from work.. Aug 24, 2015 at 14:09
  • Do you have an example? I don't recall seeing much swearing in my admittedly limited time on here
    – bertieb
    Aug 24, 2015 at 14:44
  • @bertieb see revision here superuser.com/questions/962004/…
    – Dave
    Aug 24, 2015 at 14:58
  • @Dave thanks for the example. I don't feel that's a particularly egregious example of profanity; but your edit is fine.
    – bertieb
    Aug 24, 2015 at 15:48
  • @bertieb - here you have another: superuser.com/q/964670/287473
    – miroxlav
    Aug 29, 2015 at 21:29
  • @miroxlav Good catch, and yes I agree that should be edited out for the purposes of appearance and discourse :)
    – bertieb
    Aug 29, 2015 at 21:34
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    I think it should be removed. I don't have much regard for people that need to swear to get their point across. Sep 1, 2015 at 0:38
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    @RohitGupta. No one needs to swear. Some of us like swearing. I enjoy having the full gamut of the English language to express myself.
    – TRiG
    Sep 5, 2015 at 3:24
  • @TRiG, it's irrelevant if you like to swear. The point isn't that, it's about what the community/mods etc feel about it. I understand how swearing can be used but the level of frustration a user feels is irrelevant. They come here to get a problem fixed (which we try to help) regardless of how annoying their problem is, as such, it has no place.
    – Dave
    Sep 5, 2015 at 7:17
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    @Dave I was replying specifically to the comment above which implied, quite wrongly, that swearing is a symptom of a poor vocabulary. This is a common misconception, and I felt the need to correct it.
    – TRiG
    Sep 6, 2015 at 20:32

6 Answers 6


I’d say it depends. If its basically ranty swearing, it needs to go.

If its a otherwise great answer, editing it might be an option. Nonetheless, consider the offensive flag. I don’t like the idea of autoflags tho, possibly too much work and the scunthrope problem

  • Well, the scunthorpe isn't a real problem, there are ways around it (with lower success rate I admit) Would the queue would get so big? Is there that many offensive posts? However, I think you'll be right (again) in that the answer will be "it depends" and as such, will be left as is (may be until it doesn't/does become a problem)
    – Dave
    Aug 24, 2015 at 14:34
  • I assume if we can edit the post ourselves, there is no point in flagging it offensive (only flag if we feel the post should be deleted or similar due to be soooo offensive) ?
    – Dave
    Aug 24, 2015 at 14:35
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    I agree.  If a post can be salvaged by editing, then it should be edited.  If it's a bad post (NARQ/NAA/grossly unclear/heavily opinion oriented), so it deserves to be closed/deleted in any case, and it uses language that makes your screen melt, then flag it as obscene so it can be handled two or three orders of magnitude faster.  … … … … … … … … … … … … …  Related: I have recently (several times) found (and flagged) bits of egregious spam on the question page.  And then I sit and watch — the question disappears in about ten minutes.  Our manual review system seems to be working fine. Aug 24, 2015 at 21:30

Occasional cussing is fine; directed abuse is not

I don't see it as a huge problem currently. But that's just my feeling, so let's break this down a bit first before drawing any conclusions:

I'm a person who finds posts with bad language/profanity unprofessional...

I don't disagree with that sentiment; but:

Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users.1

While there are a lot of professionals using the site, it's not aimed at exclusively (or even primarily) at professionals. From your next sentence, you may instead be suggesting that it hurts the professional image of SU (and/or SE) itself.

I'm not sure that the presence of swearing itself tarnishes the whole site- the Q/A format is pretty clear; off-topic and incorrect information gets removed quickly; good answers in theory rise to the top. These are good, important ways to promote the site; swearing doesn't diminish the image as much as lack of clarity / prevalence of off-topic etc content.

However, that does bring us back to the last part of your first sentence:

...and offensive

Ah, this is a trickier one. Everyone is entitled to their views; and it's good that you don't permit your views to delete any post with profanity. If you (personally) don't want to see it - and I'm sure there are others who feel the same - perhaps there might be call for a userscript that filters it out. Doubtless there are browser extensions, but this feels like something StackApps might be a good fit for.

Of course, if it is deliberately, provokingly offensive; go ahead and edit or flag!

Bottom line

The short answer is: it depends on the context. If someone is directing abuse at someone- that's not okay and it should be removed. If someone curses a particularly egregious design flaw- let it be, it's just them expressing frustration at n hours of their life being wasted as a result.

Auto flagging? I'm going to stand on firmer ground here and say no way, in my view, if for no other reason than false positives. But if you want further reasons- people deliberately circumventing the 'swear filter' (okay, swear autoflagger, but tradition forums have the same issue).

And another thing

I'm going to throw in that you don't need to swear, cuss or be profane to direct abuse or be offensive. For an illustration, I'll hand over to 'a bit of' the work of Mssrs Fry and Laurie, in script form.

1 I'm sure you don't need me to cite this. grin

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    Why can't computer enthusiasts or power users be professional. I also find vulgar language unacceptable, I personally feel, it has no place on Superuser. There is a difference between being professional and being a professional.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 24, 2015 at 16:35
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    @Ramhound computer enthusiasts can be professional, and many by nature are. I can edit my third paragraph to make this clearer if you don't think it is? I suppose there's a difference between being a professional, and having the quality of professionalism ;-) With regards to the second bit- how do you define vulgar language? It might be different from how I define vulgar language. Offence is a tricky one- there's a lot of different things that offend different people.
    – bertieb
    Aug 24, 2015 at 16:39
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    vulgarity is determined by the community. I curse like sailor, alright a sailor would actually feel uncomfortable around me due to the language I use, I just don't use it within a professional environment. Being professional or showing a quality of professionalism is something the majority of people can understand. Its easier then listing a 101 verbs that describe everything a professional isn't. Its a really good way to expand on the "be nice" mantra.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 24, 2015 at 16:44
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    I live in a city where the c-word is used as a term of endearment! However, I agree that people should of course be nice. On the flip side to that, there's ongoing debate here and meta.SE about removing niceties ("Thanks"). Arguably in both cases removing profanity/thanks "improves the signal-to-noise ratio", a laudable goal. But both seem a bit prescriptive as a blanket rule; I'd rather see the status quo maintained (keep discourse civil) as opposed to an outright restriction (no thanking, no profanity).
    – bertieb
    Aug 24, 2015 at 17:05
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    Statements like "Thanks" and "Please Help ...." are just noise. If an answer helps, accept the answer, and we know you want help so need to ask for it ( since you are asking a question the expectation is to get an answer ). It basically amounts to Questions and Answers, in both cases, the acceptable social responses are sort of implied ( in other words "Please" and "Thank You(s)" )
    – Ramhound
    Aug 24, 2015 at 17:08
  • I respectfully disagree- statements like that are as much a part of being nice / polite as not using vulgarity is.
    – bertieb
    Aug 24, 2015 at 17:11
  • These are good, important ways to promote the site; swearing doesn't diminish the image - I think it does for a lot people. Obviously I have no source to back this up though. Also, I think my point wasn't clear about professionalism (sorry). I'm not talking about the professionalism of the post but how that post reflects on the site, which should come across as professional. Poor posts (ie off topic) diminishes the purpose of the site, but has nothing to do with the professionalism! Things like: takin wiv txt speak or cussng makes it look sh1t, init!
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2015 at 7:44
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    I am also in UK, and know how the c word is used, but, would you get on the bus and say to the bus driver (who you don't know), how do you doin' you old c***? No, you woudln't. You would keep that tone/language to where it is appropriate (friends/family/any London pub :) etc)
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2015 at 7:47
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    @Dave I agree that it does diminish to an extent (as per the rest of that sentence :P); I figured it was more to do with a professional image. I agree that posts should be edited to improve presentation- whether that's grammar, capitalisation, or swearing. These will improve the image and make posts more useful. But I don't think there should be anything automatic applied to profanity, or a blanket ban. Too subjective, and too prone to false positives.
    – bertieb
    Aug 25, 2015 at 9:15

It's ambiguously disallowed by the Be Nice page.

Don't be a jerk. These are just a few examples. If you see them, flag them:

  • Name-calling. Focus on the post, not the person. That includes terms that feel personal even when they're applied to posts (like "lazy", "ignorant", or "whiny").
  • Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)
  • Inappropriate language or attention. Avoid vulgar terms and anything sexually suggestive. Also, this is not a dating site. Harassment and bullying. If you see a hostile interaction, flag it. If it keeps up, disengage — we'll handle it. If something needs staff attention, you can use the contact us link at the bottom of every page.

The inappropriate terms seems to be more targeted at the idea of harassing an individual with inappropriate language. And language likely to offend largely has the same meaning but even an inappropriate use of a slur that's not directed at anybody has potential to alienate or offend people it refers to.

The overall impression seems to be when in any doubt about the necessity of a term, don't use it/remove it. English has tons of words, we can easily think of alternatives instead to swears without losing meaning. If it's a suggested edit then be more conservative with edits, but if you have full editing privileges then no-one will care about your minor edit.

  • English has tons of words, we can easily think of alternatives instead to swears without losing meaning - yes, exactly. Hence why it is a consideration for it be added to the review queue so we can 'improve' the language
    – Dave
    Sep 4, 2015 at 7:51

You have a lot of reasons for this, some of them have not any justifications another could be understandable.


Some ppl can't say what they feel, with good words a with nice languaje, so they think attacking the website with offensive words people will react very bad, as childs.

I flag inmediatly that answer/question because should have no chance to be fixed.


Some spam haves inappropriate language, because they are related for example with products for sexuality life.

I flag inmediatly that answer/question because first because is against the rules, and second because it could offend the spirituality or lifestyle of some people, i respect that because i understand SE is made for any kind of person and SE believe in diversity.


There you have 2 scenarios, there is the guy who post his frustration without lost the scope and the another one who post frustration just wanting to send all the world to the hell.

When the frustration is without lost the scope i give a chance suggesting edit, in the another example i just flag. just because post origin es only made to send all to hills.

Overnames and personal offenses

Some people usually uses overnames and another ones do not care to insult himselfs.

in this case i give a chance if the intentions are not to offend anothe person, race, gender.. and i suggest edits, same for personal offenses.

I think in my case i'll stay to do the things in this way because is my way to show how i want this site, and i just have this skill to make de diference, so ill suggest to stay doing the things in the right way. SU and SE are very big communities.


Profanity and cussing is usually the incorrect use of words to indicate frustration or similar emotion. Since these emotional sentiments distract from the real content of the question/answer, they could be removed as bad grammar, distracting, and/or superfluous.

Of course, if you are on a site revolving around opinions and/or emotions, removing the emotion would change the meaning of the question/answer, so it should stay (as long as it follows the other rules.


Not sure if I'll get multiple downvotes for appealing to the Bible, but...

I'm just finishing up on a hardcover edition of the Classic Orthodox Bible, and if you wait a bit the hardcover will be worth it.

French-speakers have a saying, "Il ne faut pas etre plus royaliste que le roi."

It is entirely unnecessary to be more of a royalist than the king.

The Bible in ancient versions uses strong language. It may be rare, but it's there. Hence, with a corrected NIV, Philippians 3:8 reads:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them shit, that I may gain Christ.

Malachi 2:3 gives a scathing indictment of religion that loves ceremonies but doesn't give a fuck about the poor and needy:

And I will spread shit on your faces, the shit of your solemn feasts, and I will drive you out of my presence...

Something is really lost in these passages when strong language is replaced by "garbage."

Some details are hit or miss in translation. For instance, in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Elijah is mocking the prophets of Baal for Baal's complete failure to answer hours of their frenzied prayer: "At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”" (3 Kingdoms 18:27). The exact nature of one of the four suggestions is unclearly translated, Elijah is insinuating that Baal is not answering the prayers of his prophets because he "can't come to the phone now," and apparently has been tied up and unable to answer the phone for hours.

The English Bible censors things out; scholars producing the first NIV got slapped way down when scholars translated the Song of Songs as clearly as they did the rest of the (Protestant) Bible. The text compares some part of the man's body to two hundred feet of wood.

Now there's a lot more to the Bible than that, but I would give the following advice:

Avoid foul language almost all the time, but treat "don't use foul language" as a rule of thumb and not an absolute or an imperative.

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    I hope I don't offend with this comment (it isn't my intention to) but I don't see what the bible has to do with professionalism though.
    – Dave
    Sep 2, 2015 at 14:02
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    @JonathanHayward - A absolutely will treat "don't use foul language" as an as an absolute rule of thumb. If somebody does not like that, tough luck, there is absolutely zero place for vulgar language in a setting like Superuser. It serves nothing, and for me, it offends me greatly.
    – Ramhound
    Sep 2, 2015 at 16:11
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    I don't care that you're citing the Bible.  I care that you're using it to support a position that I disagree with.  You seem to be saying that some thoughts, ideas, facts, and sentiments cannot be expressed properly without the use of so-called dirty words (such as the s-word).  My response is that those thoughts, ideas, facts, and sentiments are out of place on Super User and most SE sites.  (Discussions of anatomy may be acceptable on Fitness.SE, Health.SE and Pets.SE, and the language- and religion-oriented sites have different rules.)  Be Nice Sep 2, 2015 at 17:43

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