You may not know this about me, but, I have a tendency to run my mouth off a bit.
In 3rd grade, my best friend at the time – Mark – decided that I’d said shit a few too many times after falling off the monkey bars and turned me in to the recess monitor. Where did I learn the word? From reading Jurassic Park, of course.
My principal suggested I should put off reading that particular book until I could understand the content a bit “better”. I suggested that Mark shouldn’t take a word so personally.
Fast-forward to Business Ethics, my favorite class in college. I loved the arguments in the class, particularly when the topic of corporate greed was brought up. One of my classmates brought up the fact that business was an inherently greedy practice – that CEOs only ever had an obligation to the shareholders, no one else. I decided it was time to knock this person off their high horse: “Just because you had a Barbie convertible when you were six doesn’t make you a better driver. Similarly, I’m not out strangling strippers and blowing up ambulances after playing Grand Theft Auto. Although, after playing with Bratz dolls, I do feel like a slut. My point is, how we behave in the role we play in society is not determined by the role – it’s determined by how we choose to behave.” She didn’t speak to me again.
I was even written up in my second-to-last “real” job for overly direct communication. To this day, I’m not sure how one communicates in an overly direct fashion, but somehow I did it – and the whole situation was so disheartening that I decided to start a job hunt that very day.
So what does this all have to do with using profanity in your messaging? My whole life has been an exercise in appropriate uses of profanity. Shock and awe? I own that.
Chances are, you’re reading this in your email – through my newsletter. Chances are, unless you’re like me, you don’t see explicatives in your email very often.
So when I want to tell you something’s really important, I’d better tell you that something’s really fucking important. Words are prolific and easily forgotten, but important words make us uncomfortable.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug,” – Mark Twain
What Mark Twain is really saying here is that there are times when fuck is the only word that will do. When it’s really important, don’t be afraid of the word. Don’t be afraid of how your audience will take it. Don’t be afraid of the unsubscribes, the folks who see a four-letter-word and weep like… well, me, when I run out of Oreos.
Your newsletter audience (and anyone who pays you the great honor of actually listening to you, for that matter) should be treated with the utmost respect. For me, that means being intellectually honest. If I need to swear to get my point across, I’m going to do it. In the past, I’d held back and my writing (and business) suffered for it. If I kept censoring myself, it would have been like handing over my copy of Jurassic Park to my principal way back when.
I’d have missed out on a lot of awesome dinosaurs because someone had a little hissy fit about how I chose to express myself. And real friends don’t make friends miss out on dinosaurs, got it?
This post is part of the Word Carnival series. For more great advice from some of the best business pros I know on making the best use of your newsletter, check out the link!
(Header Photo: Serious)