The New York Times
is easing up on its policies surrounding publishing profanity.
Journalists and editors have often had to go to great lengths to try to mask or write around curse words and otherwise vulgar phrases.
op-ed contributor Jesse Sheidlower admits in a recent essay
that “society’s comfort level with offensive language and content has drastically shifted over the past few decades, but the stance of our news media has barely changed at all.”
It comes at an opportune time—just months after the paper revised its policy on obscenity and vulgarity:
If the precise nature of an obscenity, vulgarity or other offensive expression is essential to the reader’s understanding of a newsworthy event — not merely to convey color or emotion — editors should consider using the term or a close paraphrase.
Eric Levenson of The Wire notes
that the Times
isn’t alone. The Wall Street Journal
has eased its rules on using obscenities as well.
[RELATED: Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela present advanced writing and editing tips for corporate communicators. Join them in NYC, Chicago, Washington D.C., or Denver!]
Before you get too excited, the Times
isn’t getting too nuts with it. The style guide also advises:
Instead, in most cases, offer a general description: a vulgar expression; a crude epithet; a vulgar sexual term. If more specificity is needed for comprehension, use a straightforward description or paraphrase: He used a crude term in place of “stuff”; She uttered a vulgar equivalent for “nonsense”; He used an offensive term for female genitalia.
I don’t know about you, but I think this decision is (insert vulgar adjective that rhymes with ducking) smart.