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I've noticed a couple of instances of minor profanity on the site, mainly in comments. It's not been directed at anyone, nor has it been particularly vulgar. However, it's definitely into territory which some people would consider somewhat offensive, or at least unprofessional.

How should we respond to instances like these?

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As is important in any such discussion, what did you see? It is near impossible to discuss such issues without looking at specific instances.

In any case, the normal policy applies. If directed at an individual or group, flag as offensive, be it a question, answer or a comment. You may edit it out if you so wish, but it is best to bring it to the attention of moderators, so such users may be explained how things work here, and if needed further action may be taken.

In cases of general use of inappropriate language, edit it out and/or flag for moderator attention.

Most of this is very clearly mentioned in the Help Center.

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  • I hadn't found the Behaviour article on the help centre, so thanks for pointing it out. The salient part is: "Please note that expletives are not allowed. If you use expletives on this site, you may be issued a warning or a suspension." – Peter Bloomfield Feb 26 '14 at 14:13
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I think an important part of our goal is to be friendly and welcoming. As such, my inclination is to edit-out profanity where possible (in questions/answers), or flag it for removal otherwise (in comments).

I'm not suggesting that we enforce a puritanical attitude to language, or that we need to censor people or ideas. Rather, I think we should strive to be professional and mutually respectful, which sometimes requires a diplomatic choice of words.

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The relevant documentation on this is confusing at best.

The behaviour page has the notice: Please note that expletives are not allowed. If you use expletives on this site, you may be issued a warning or a suspension.

However, the may be issued a warning or a suspension. portion of the page is a direct link to a meta question about "profanity" on stack-exchange in general that directly disagrees with the linking text. In response to the question Are expletives allowed on SE sites?, the highest-voted answer is Yes, but keep them to a minimum.

As far as I can tell, I would assume the behaviour page is out of date, since it seems the community consensus disagrees with it.

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  • I've spoken to the other SE mods, and the Help Center article apparently takes priority. The expletives issue is basically a rule across all SE sites, rather than a community-driven decision. – Peter Bloomfield Mar 1 '14 at 0:07
  • @PeterR.Bloomfield - In that case, where is the threshold? Shit? S**t? &%$&? – Connor Wolf Mar 1 '14 at 1:11
  • Generally speaking, the rule seems to be no expletives at all, in any form. Personally, I'm not intending to chase after the milder stuff like "hell" or "crap" (unless it's getting flagged a lot by users, or it's used somewhere very visible like a question title). Anything stronger than that will have to be removed though. – Peter Bloomfield Mar 1 '14 at 1:31
  • @PeterR.Bloomfield - It seems to me like you're reading a lot into those rules. Again, Is S**t ok? #$%!? – Connor Wolf Mar 1 '14 at 1:59
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    Partially- or fully-censored expletives are still expletives, so please don't use them. They shouldn't be necessary for communicating anything constructive (and anything not constructive shouldn't be posted on the site). – Peter Bloomfield Mar 1 '14 at 2:13

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