Is Swearing Part of Your Content Strategy?

I attended my first IA Summit in large part because of 5-Minute Madness. After discovering that the IA Summit exists, I listened to all of the recordings of the Summit I could find. One of them was of 5-Minute Madness. Hearing the emotion in the participants’ voices as each, in turn, took the microphone, some moved to tears by their experience, made me realize that this was like no conference I had ever attended – I had to get there. And I am grateful to all of you who have been so generous in sharing your wisdom, experience, and advice, and your conviction that what we do makes a difference.

But this isn’t one of those gushing posts. This is one of those difficult posts, because there is something I’ve been meaning to write to you about. It’s about your content strategy, your messaging architecture.

I think that in some ways there are two IA/UX communities: one that peppers its public speech and writing with “colorful” words, and one that doesn’t. Even though I fall in the latter category, I think I can understand at least some of the reasons why those who choose to do so, do. Maybe you can understand at least some of the reasons why I choose not to.

And so, if I could make one suggestion it would be that there are so many awesome words out there that at least one of them better expresses what you’re feeling and what you want to communicate than that handful of more colorful words.

There have been times, more than a few times, when I wanted to share what you shared, to spread it, to celebrate it. But because of the language you used, I felt that I couldn’t share it.

I don’t want to feel that way about your work – I love your work! Now, maybe you and I wouldn’t agree about whether those words were ever the best words to use, but I would challenge you to reach out for those words that really express your individual message, your courage, your conviction.

I challenge you to take your message out of the fixed-width tables of crude language and instead (in the spirit of Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First) craft your message Safe For Work First.

We are a community that agonizes over the details, because we know they matter. And I think that if we all get more skilled at using language, we’ll all be better off. Choosing the right word brings clarity, to our own thoughts and to our expressions. It forces us to be better observers of ourselves and of others. And being better observers makes us better at what we do – making a difference.

P.S. Thanks to Dan Benjamin for tackling this issue on his show Quit #25. It gave me the boost I needed to move this post out of draft.

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