I don't know about you, but when my boss calls out my name, I perk the fuck up. And if he ever swears in a sentence (the way I just did), I stand at attention because I know he means business.
But cursing won't always command attention... It all depends on:
1. The source, or who said the obscenity and
2. how often that person swears in the first place.
But those factors can be hard to conceptualize...
So lets examine a couple real-life scenarios that will teach you how to use profanity to your advantage -- in writing and in life:
COACH McSWEARS vs MR. LESSESMO
My high school soccer coach -- lets call him Coach McSwears -- was, by all accounts, a good guy. Down-to-earth. Funny. The kids loved him.
In hindsight, it's obvious why we liked him so much: He swore like a he was getting payed by the syllable. It was fascinating.
As a 14-year-old, hearing Coach McSwears speak to us like we were grown men made us feel mature (which, perhaps, was his intention). But the novelty only lasted for so long. After a couple weeks, kids didn't even flinch when a f-bomb (a capital offense in most classrooms) hit the practice field...
Fast forward a decade: I'm a copywriter for CareerBuilder. I work in-house at their headquarters in Downtown Chicago.
My editor -- lets call him Mr. Lessesmo -- was short and stout. He wore Larry King suspenders every day. He was soft-spoken and concise. He also had a lot of ticks...
So even though he was my boss, he almost never intimidated me... Until he dropped a ripe, bold "FUCK" on my head.
You see, unlike my high school soccer coach, Mr. Lessesmo rarely allowed himself to curse. So when he did, you knew it was time to shut up and nod your head.
Unlike Coach McSwears, my editor used profanity as a strategic tool. When he swore, it was an unmistakable sign that:
1. He was talking about something important and
2. he demanded attention.
By conditioning his writers to recognize this clue, Mr. Lessesmo saved himself a lot of effort.
Given his dirty, noxious mouth, Coach McSwears didn't have this luxury. Instead, he had to yell -- and I mean really raise his voice -- to express how serious he was. And while shouting for 10 or 15 seconds may not seem like a lot of effort, the difference is huge when you weigh it against speaking only one word...
LESS = MORE
LOOK: Some copy you can swear in; some copy you can't swear in. It all depends on who your audience is.
If you know, for whatever reason, that you can't swear in a piece, then you're SOL. Sorry. You'll just have to use another attention-grabbing technique.
But if you can swear (e.g., in a blog post, like this one), just remember that old adage: Less is more.
When it comes to writing obscenities, scarcity yields weight. So save the f-bombs for:
- When you want to capture your readers' undivided attention...
- When you want to make an impassioned point...
- When there's a turn in your marketing story...
Don't throw your expletives around like they're fisherman's breadcrumbs. Be a boss: Be strategic and sparing with your profanity and you'll compel people to perk up at the most critical points of your message.