The Lie that is Online Transparency and ‘Being True to Self’

by Marcus Sheridan

CommunicationA few weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in a Twitter chat put on by the folks at Blog World and without question, it was quite an interesting experience. Basically, the chat was more of a ‘friendly debate’ between me and Jason Falls (of Social Media Explorer and author of the new book ‘No BS Social Media’) on the merits of using curse words/profanity in our online/blogging activities.

As you might imagine, the subject of ‘To curse or not to curse’ is always going to be quite polarizing, with strong opinions on each side. This certainly was the case with this twitter chat, as hundreds of folks participated in the lively but also quite respectful conversation, making it Blog World’s most popular Twitter chat to date.

‘Being True’

But there was one statement that the ‘pro-profanity’ crowd kept going back to:

If a blogger doesn’t curse then they are not being true to themselves.

Hmm, interesting thought.

In fact, I’ve thought about it a lot more since that night, and have reached a further conclusion about this oft-used phrase that seems to pop up all over the blogosphere.

It’s a lie, pure and simple.

There is a Proper Time and Place for Everything

My argument throughout the profanity debate was a simple one: It’s not about whether profanity is right or wrong, it’s about its impact on potential customers, clients, and relationships.

If something we say while we write or present potentially distracts our audience and deters understanding of our message, then why wouldn’t we leave it out, especially if we could have stated it in another way and been just as effective??

For example, I consider myself a ‘religious’ guy. But do you know how often I talk about ‘church’ stuff on this blog or in my speaking?

The answer, of course, is very little.

So does this mean I’m not being true to myself? Does this mean I’m not being transparent?

Or how about politics? I’m a political guy. I have strong opinions (even though I never watch TV or listen to talk shows). I have read more books on history and government than most folks do in a lifetime, yet I never mention politics here on TSL or in other presentations.

Again, does this mean I’m not being true to myself? Should I make jokes about the President and other political figures whenever the opportunity presents itself?

No, of course not. That would be dumb, really dumb.

We all filter. Every…Single…One…Of…Us

Do you talk to your grandparents, parents, or children the same way you do your closest friends? Chances are, you don’t.  You likely change your vernacular, conversation subjects, etc.

But why? Why are you not being ‘you’ around your family?

I submit you are being ‘you’. Except in this case, you have decided that being true means proper communication, depending on who you’re with.

The same principles hold true for the online world. If every blogger, content marketer, etc. started spouting off every part of their life, their thoughts, their weaknesses, etc.—We’d be in the middle the twilight zone.

This is why there must be balance and common sense used in all our communications.

Transparency

So should we be transparent with our blogging? Well, considering I’ve probably preached that word as much as anyone online in the past 2 years, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’….and ‘No’.

Here’s the way I see it: When it comes to my products, I try to tell all—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I give my most honest opinions, trying never to live in the world of gray, but rather speaking only in black and white terms. This induces trust.

As for the rest, it’s frankly not my goal to alienate/offend/freak out my audience. And if I am going to offend them, it sure as heck is going to be because of something I said about inbound marketing, blogging, sales, business, etc. But it’s not going to come from politics, religion, language, why my neighbor thinks I’m crazy, etc.

The bottom line is we are here to make customers (at least most of us). If we don’t have them, we don’t make money. If we don’t make money, it doesn’t mean squat how ‘true to self’ we’ve been, because at that point we’re stressed, frustrated, and life stinks.

Hopefully you see that this article isn’t about whether profanity in blogging is right or wrong, as that debate will go on until the end of time. Rather, I simply wanted to put a different spin on this idea of online transparency.

Yes, we need to keep it real. But let’s also be smart, selective, and choose wisely.

Your Turn:

So what’s your take? Do we all filter or am I way off base? And should we be ‘true to self’ in every occasion or is there a proper time and place for certain elements of communication?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this interesting subject.

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{ 128 comments… read them below or add one }

Nic Cartwright October 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

Heh Marcus. The one word that sums up just about everything for me is “respect”. Respect your opponent, respect your customers, respect the situation, respect the opinion of those who are listening, show me a little etc… and onwards….. This means one has to show a touch of intelligence to read any situation/listener and adjust how ‘you are you’ accordingly…. We all have our own values – and as long as you show respect to them – having shades of transparency is all right by me.

Do I think swearing is wrong – not really (sticks ‘n stones etc). Do I swear much – not really – and only when I know those around me. Would I swear online – highly doubtful – I have respect for the likely feelings of those who might be listening….

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

Nic, boy do I love your take on this. ‘Respect’ is a perfect way to sum all of this up, especially where you said ‘respect the situation’.

Your perspective is always one of clear thought Nic, which is why I’m really grateful you take time to stop by and add to the conversations here my friend.

Be well,

Marcus

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Nic Cartwright October 11, 2011 at 11:14 am

Like

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Danny @ Firepole Marketing October 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

Very well explained, Marcus. There’s a difference between transparency (the opposite of which is dishonesty) and too much information (the opposite of which is discretion and staying focused on what your audience is actually interested in hearing about). :)

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hmmm, you really said that perfectly Danny, just wish I’d explained it so clearly in the post. ;-)

Yep, there’s a big difference, no doubt.

Thanks for dropping by man,

Marcus

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Robert October 11, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hey Marcus, great job once again bud!

I completely agree with you. Everyone is different things to different people, I don’t know anyone who talks to their friends the same way they talk to their (young) kids, and rightly so.

As you said, what do politics and religion have to do with getting customers? Nothing. It could even put off customers if they don’t agree with your views on those subjects; and a completely unnecessary barrier has been created in the potential business relationship.

I interviewed Mark Harai about six months ago, and we both agreed that swearing was unnecessary on a blog. I’m totally tolerant to swearing, but there is a time and a place. That being said, I don’t mind if bloggers use it (in moderation), but most of the time it’s just unnecessary.

One guy it hasn’t affected that we both look up to is Gary Vee. He somehow gets away with it (probably because of his awesome content, passion and style of delivery). However, I’m sure it has unnecessarily alienated a number of his fans and followers.

Being true to yourself covers something much deeper than swearing – it’s about being genuine and adding value – it’s got nothing to do with the language we use. “Being true to yourself” by swearing is a flawed argument in my opinion.

Anyway, great post man. Awesome job on the ebook too!

Speak soon.

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paul wolfe October 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

Marcus

I wrote about this a while back – a post called The F-Bomb, Blogging and Authenticity. And Kristin (Hines) wrote about it too on Kikolani – if memory serves my post started as a comment on her post.

What I object about people who swear on their blogs is not whether it’s authentic or not. But that it’s just lazy writing. When you drop the F-bomb in every paragraph it becomes a ‘nothing’ word that means absolutely nothing. It becomes a word like ‘very’ – a word that has no uniqueness and no distinction and does absolutely nothing to improve the clarity of your communication.

I’ve written about 120 posts now on One Spoon – on average they are 1500 to 2000 words long. I’ve used the F-Bomb once. And the context I used it in absolutely provided the effect that I was going for and was totally justified. I did try different words for around 40 minutes to see if i could replace it with something that did the same job – nothing did, so I stuck with it.

I don’t buy the ‘authenticity’ argument. If you blog you’re a writer. Being a writer is about deploying words with laser precision. Using the F Bomb doesn’t make anyone look cool IMO – it just makes them look like they didn’t take much time with their writing. Or worse, they don’t care about their writing enough to edit it properly.

And the transparency argument is a non-starter in my book – like you say we all ‘filter’ our mode of communication and the words we use depending on who we speak too.

Last point: if your blog is a part of your business then it’s not about you anyway, it’s about your audience. So if your writing is lazy and imprecise and filled with swear words there’s a good chance that you will attract that kind of audience (your website is a mirror). I don’t want those kind of people as potential cllients…so I filter them out by not swearing unless it’s ‘le mot juste’ as The French call it and no other word will do.

L8r.

paul

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 9:48 am

Ahhh yes, I do remember that post Paul. It was a good one…very good, as was Kristi’s.

I like what you say about lazy writing and how words lose meaning with overuse. Writers often times make the great mistake of dropping 20 f-bombs in a post thinking they’ve just shook the world, when all they’ve really done is go on a rant and love value in most people’s eyes. I constantly have folks tell me they heard a speech/presentation by someone who used a bunch of profanity and because of that the presentation was much better. Every time I hear that, there is a major part of me that wants to invite them to my next event so they can see that yes, it is possible to say things another way and still move an audience.

And great last point Paul. This is our business. Businesses tailor to customers and their needs. It has been that way since the beginning of time and won’t change in the near future. ;-)

GREAT comment bud, thanks.

Marcus

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Sarah Arrow October 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

Love it :)

You are right when you say we adapt our language to the people we are around. I would not dream of swearing in front of my parents or my children or customers for that matter. I do write with a light smattering of heck’s, darn’s, damn’s and hell, but that is how I talk. I just don’t talk to the people who matter to me like that, that’s how I talk to myself. As a former publican (purveyor of fine ales and lagers) I was trained to talk to my customer in the language they felt comfortable with – that’s tough when you serve 100s of customers over the course of a day.

I have always found it interesting how it’s recommended by others to be congruent but frowned upon when you are, as if you are doing something wrong. I also think being online gives people license to talk in a manner that they probably wouldn’t do in real life, hence the language used. Looking forward to the discussion that’s going to happen here :)

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 9:42 am

‘Adapt’.

Great word Sarah. (Wish I had you with me when I was writing this post ;-) )

I think ‘congruency’, as you put it, is one of the great keys to life. It allows us to reach others, motivate them, communicate with them, etc. That doesn’t mean we lose who we are, but it does mean we can thus achieve more.

You always rock with your words Sarah. Thanks so much for dropping by!

Marcus

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Danny Brown October 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

Depends on the audience and the blogger. I allow cussing on my blog from guest writers and commenters, as well as swear myself where I see it as being the better option to get a point across.

Example: “Go away, I’ve really had enough of you.” versus “F*ck off!!” – one gets the message across far better than the other.

I’ve also had clients come work with us because of my no-BS approach to things – they feel they’ll get exactly what they need with no fluff, as opposed to an agency that will bend over and let the client do what they want because “the client is always right”.

Uh, no they’re not – they’re very often wrong, which is why they pay you for your advice. Of course, whether they take it or not…. But I digress.

A blog is a blog, and it’s the blogger’s property. If they feel that swearing and profanity is what they want, and are happy to let it represent who they are, then fair play to them. That’s nothing to do with transparency – it’s simple human economics.

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

There is no question it’s the blogger’s property Danny. I agree. And I agree that we should be able to say what we want, when we want on our blog. But that’s not so much my driving point– We all filter depending on the situation. Thus, we overuse this excuse of ‘being true to self’. Does that make sense? If being true to self means that you filter, then good. If being true to self means you don’t, then fine. But just because someone changes their mode of communication doesn’t mean they’re not being true to self, do you see what I’m saying? (this is a difficult thing to explain btw ;-) )

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Danny Brown October 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

Can there be filtering within filtering, though, and this keeps you true to yourself? Or is the very act of filtering – even micro-filtering – an act of losing your true self?

For example, many people have mentioned it’s down to respect. But let’s say your audience has different “levels” of respect, based on their interaction with you.

So, for a CEO of a multi-national company, you might filter profanity but still be forceful (although many CEO’s I’ve met have been cuss monsters!). For a small business owner, you cuss like the devil.

You don’t lose your honesty or transparency, because you’re talking in “their language” (respect).

It’s a tough one to call, because I place more value on being true to your self on how people act, as opposed to how they say things. I watch people online come across as nice and pleasant, but have seen emails from them to others where they’re a complete asshole.

To me, that’s being less true while being nice in public. Then again, maybe the private stuff is the true side.. ;-)

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Lye Kuek Hin October 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

Hey Marcus,

I do swear offline but i don’t do it in my blog. This has nothing to do being not true to myself. It is not a place for me to use any vulgar language. I only swear when i feeling frustrated or when i need to release stress. My blog is a place where i interact with people and its definitely not my practice to swear during normal conversation.

I don’t see swearing as a way of showing us as a real human. I certainly don’t feel like reading a post that is full of “F” word, it just pissed me off.

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

I respect your style Lye, I really do man, and it’s one that many people seem to share that have commented on here.

Hope you and the fam are well my friend,

Marcus

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Farnoosh October 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

It’s a choice – to swear or not to swear. Some do it extremely well and I do enjoy reading blogs that do it well – I don’t read them for that reason but if it’s done well, I do enjoy it – and I love watching Quentin’s movies; they are not exactly “clean” but he is a xoxox genius :)!
However, on my blog and on my newsletter and in my professional ways with the world, I CHOOSE not to swear. A lot of others choose differently; some do it purely for attention and others do it because it’s just how they are and they don’t care to filter. I think it’s great to have personal freedom to do as we please as long as we have personal responsibility to see through the consequences ….. And I do recall what an uproar you case, you lion you, after Blogworld in May ;)!

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 10:09 am

Ahhh yes Farnoosh, BW was a little bit of a ripple effect ;-)

I really think you’ve said what I was trying to say above much better: I think it’s great to have personal freedom to do as we please as long as we have personal responsibility to see through the consequences

That’s exactly it. If your the type that doesn’t care about lost business or relationships, then that’s fine. If you’re the type that does, that’s fine too. But if we think that each choice doesn’t come with its own consequence, we’re fooling ourselves.

Thanks again for being amazing Farnoosh. Have an awesome week lady!

Marcus

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Laura Foley October 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

Marcus, I couldn’t agree with you more. When I was a little kid I had quite a potty mouth and it got me into a lot of trouble. I kept cursing through life until I had children of my own, then I went cold turkey on the swear words. I didn’t want my boys to have the same bad swearing habit that I had developed.

As you point out, you don’t want to offend potential colleagues, clients, and prospects with coarse language. You wouldn’t drop an f-bomb during a job interview, so why would you do it in a business-related blog?

Cursing is the last resort of the small-minded. There are so many other ways to get one’s point across.

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:28 am

Hey Laura, thanks so much for taking a moment to comment here. It’s interesting that you and I see this very much the same way– poor choice of language loses customers, pure and simple. Notwithstanding, there is the argument by many that cursing and profanity actually enhance one’s brand and thus make them more effective. Frankly, I just can’t buy that one.

Anyway, thanks again for this Laura and it certainly appears that your boys have quite the mom. ;-)

Marcus

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judi @ farmnwife.com October 11, 2011 at 10:07 am

I was just going to say what Paul said. Swearing is lazy writing, just as it is lazy speech. Yes, I do swear on occasion but am not proud of it. I see it as a character flaw I am trying to correct. Sometimes I may write the symbols for a curse word when I am trying to communicate how exasperated I am. But that is on my personal blog.

I did write a post titled “Eat Sh!t And Die”. But it was about E. Coli poisoning that had killed people in Europe. That post was a hard one for me to publish because of the title.

I really don’t see what the problem is. If people want to swear on their blog, do it. Why would they be so concerned that others aren’t. Are they trying to prove they are more “real” than those who don’t? Or are they trying to bring other bloggers down to their level?

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

I must admit Judi, that’s a pretty funny blog post title about e.coli ;-)

Seriously though, I appreciate your comment and passion, and that you take the time to read the blog here.

Have a great rest of your week!

Marcus

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Al Smith October 11, 2011 at 10:07 am

Thanks Marcus. Just like most things in life. it comes down to choice. I agree with you. Cursing really isn’t necessary to get your point across. You never know the way a potential client or customer might feel about profanity. Why take the risk ? Even though sometimes I feel like dropping an F bomb to emphasize a point, I know it is something that does not need to be shared on my blog. When you let passion get ahead of quality content, (and editing) that can happen.

Always Pause before Publish. Ha !

There is a proper time and place for everything, Marcus. And you seem to always be on time with another great post. Love what you are doing and so proud to call you a friend. Yes, I am still working on things and promoting the Dare to CARE challenge.
Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. You are a great example of what “Being True to Yourself” is all about. Thank you.

Al

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:33 am

Al, hey there big guy!

I think you’ve really summed it up nicely: There is a time and place for everything.

This principle applies to everything really– communication being just one small part of that.

Keep up your hard work my friend and keep believing,

Marcus

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Robert Dempsey October 11, 2011 at 10:17 am

We all filter, and that doesn’t mean we aren’t being true to ourselves and others.

I cuss, a lot. But I don’t let loose when I first meet someone. That might stop the relationship from forming. Once I get to know the person and what they will/won’t tolerate then I can loosen up a bit more with the language. However I don’t want it to be a barrier.

Each blog post we write is a first impression for someone, and each needs to count. It also must speak to your ideal customer. And if your ideal customer isn’t cool with someone sending out a bunch of curse words, religion or politics then table it until later.

It doesn’t mean you’re any less who you are. It means you’re making a conscious decision to hold back on something that might be a barrier.

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

Each blog post we write is a first impression for someone, and each needs to count.

How many people likely never quite understand that simple yet incredibly important statement you just made Robert?

Appreciate you bud,

Marcus

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Sarah Kohl October 11, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi Marcus
You comments are spot on.
Our on-line presence needs to match up with our off-line reality. I don’t use profanity at work, and wouldn’t online. It isn’t me. It doesn’t fit my industry.
For others, they have a different personality/industry. Fortunately we are all different (or else it would be a very boring world).

ps Interestingly, without overtly mentioning it, you religious beliefs do come through in your actions (in a subtle sort of way). So you don’t need to hit people with a club to demonstrate something…you know ‘actions speak louder than words’. Isn’t that ironic for a blogger? Isn’t that ‘authentic’?

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:37 am

Hey Sarah, so kind of you to take a moment and comment here, thank you.

It’s funny what you said about the religious beliefs. I’ve had many people tell me they knew I was Christian just by reading the blog here, and could feel a little bit of that in every post. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t make me happy to hear.

Our on-line presence needs to match up with our off-line reality.—Yep, I do believe that sums it up perfectly Sarah :-)

Thanks again and have a wonderful rest of your week,

Marcus

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Steve Birkett October 11, 2011 at 10:22 am

Plenty of interesting questions arising from one subject…very cool.

I think that the “true-self” argument wears fairly thin once held up to the light. Are blogs the ultimate paragon of self now? I don’t know anyone that doesn’t present various facets of themselves more than others, subject to the company they’re with and setting they’re in. That’s where the filtering comes in that you mention. As Nic pointed out, it’s about respecting your audience and understanding when/if swearing is appropriate.

The audience side is also critical. Even on personal blogs, if we’re attempting to build any kind of community and readership, it’s key to write in a way that makes those we want to attract feel comfortable. If your business crowd will appreciate a no-punches pulled approach, no problem, it’s a facet of the personality that can be emphasized. But I suspect a majority prefer the default setting for the professional world, a more restrained language.

The last point I’d raise would be that, linguistically, it’s often more skilled to employ other devices to communicate passion. Perhaps profanity is effective in small bursts, but over-reliance quickly ends up neutralizing even the most provocative words. In many cases, it’s the very use of those words that takes over the focus of the writing, leaving the original point gathering dust on a shelf.

I personally have no issue with some profanity from bloggers – or indeed anyone else – as we’re all human and express ourselves in different ways. When it becomes the center of the writer’s communication style or a crutch for poor writing, however, I think the “true-self” defense simply ends up being a smokescreen to cover deeper ills.

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

Steve, wow man, such an awesome comment, really.

Are blogs the ultimate paragon of self now? I don’t know anyone that doesn’t present various facets of themselves more than others, subject to the company they’re with and setting they’re in. That’s where the filtering comes in that you mention.

Loved that thought there, and it’s exactly what I was attempting to really get across in this post here. (Maybe I’ll just you to write it next time brother ;-) )

Have a great one man and thanks again,

Marcus

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john Falchetto October 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

Great topic Marcus.

Do we filter? Of course we all do. Online and offline we have a persona which is different from who we are in person. The real question is how big is the gap.
When the gap is too big, then you have a serious problem.

It doesn’t just apply to online though.

We can meet someone in a business setting and then find out they are different when we meet them outside of their ‘work’ persona. There are bloggers who appear nice online and turn out to be real jerks in real life. And vice versa.

Regarding swearing, well when was the last time you heard an amazing piece of communication, a speech, a poem, a book which was full of F bombs?

If you think swearing is a great way to communicate look around, not at bloggers but at great orators.
Did Mohamed Ali, JKF, Clinton, Churchill, Malcolm X, De Gaulle, or Roosevelt swear?
Do you find swearing in any of the religious books?
Even if you are not religious you will have to admit that these are powerful messages which have influenced the lives of millions of people.

What did the F word ever do except raise frustration, and upset people?

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Gini Dietrich October 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I said the F word once, in front of my mom. My mom, though a very devout Mormon, is totally cool. It cracks me up to hear her say things she thinks are swear words.

I was hanging a picture above my bed and stepped back to look at it. Except I forgot the ceiling fan was on and, not only did it hit me in the head, it knocked me off the bed as I yelled the F word.

After making sure I wasn’t going to die, my very cool mom said, “Well, it’s clear you’re comfortable saying that word or it wouldn’t have been the one that came out so easily.”

I’ve never been comfortable saying it since. So I agree with you…it really just upsets people and it unnecessary.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 10:58 pm

You’re a PR person Gini, so I’m guessing you’ve dealt with this whole ‘public image’ stuff way more than I ever could dream of, and certainly have perspective on both sides of the argument, so I appreciate you chiming in.

BTW, I still want to meet your Mom. She sounds dang awesome…although she really should have made you swallow a bar of soap ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:42 am

You always have the complete perspective and voice of reason in the things you say John. I really mean that bud. I guess there’s just something about ‘wisdom’ and ‘expats’, ehhh?

Thanks for all you do brother,

Marcus

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Daniel M. Wood October 11, 2011 at 11:00 am

Hey Marcus,

“There is a time and place for everything” kind of sums it up for me.
I do curse too much when speaking with friends, I feel it and try to edit myself. I don’t this makes me untrue to myself, me is not my curses, it isn’t the language I speak, it is what I believe in.

Cursing to customers is even worse, it proves that you don’t have the manners to behave.
Sure a blogger who curses can be fun, but they aren’t the people I want to do business with. I might read their blog, I might even buy a small product, but I will never truly respect them and therefore not go after their larger products.
For people who give away good services without cursing I am willing to pay a lot more!

I am glad you took the side of the anti-cursers..

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:44 am

Daniel, thanks so much for chiming in on this my friend. You’ve got a strong, professional edge about the way you do things and I always respect your thoughts bud. And I think there are many, many people that share your sentiments as well.

Thanks for the comment bud and continued success, especially with your new product.

Marcus

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Steve Scott October 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

Marcus,

This is a great topic and a wonderful debate. I personally have absolutely no problems with cursing. I find some blogs that are expletive laced to be quite funny and enjoyable.

But I also realize that everyone doesn’t think that way. Many people are turned off by foul language, and out of respect for those people, if your blog is “professional” you avoid them.

Like you pointed out, why intentionally alienate a percentage of your audience.

Because of this I made a decision a long time ago not to curse. the closest I come is “BS” because no term seems to capture the essence of BS as well as that word. But I still never spell it out… It’s a family show.

And I even debated long and hard on that one in my ebook title.

Ultimately I think it comes down to the fact that there are two types of bloggers.

The first type is totally personality driven. What they say almost doesn’t matter. They talk politics, they talk business and whatever crosses their mind. If these guys curse in real life, they do so on their blogs and that is fine… the only people that like them., will be people “like” them, so they will not likely alienate their fans…but speak to their hearts.

The second type is more about the message. They have a business and they have a message. This does not indicate a lack of personality in any way. But when you are reaching a broader base you have to give the people what they want.

And while I personally would be happy to debate politics if we ended up on the opposite sides of the fence politically, many people would instantly lose respect. and that is exactly the case with foul language.

-Steve

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

Awesome perspective Steve. I like how you’ve broken it out here into two different groups, and that’s a very valid point.

Appreciate the comment brother and keep up all that awesomeness you have going on your site over there!

Marcus

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Leon Noone October 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

G’Day Marcus,
I admire your fortitude. From this curmudgeon’s point of view, a discussion about “to swear or not to swear “is so self -indulgent. If that’s the biggest problem in the blogosphere., Iraq, Afghanistan, the US economy. sex slavery and a mountain of other international problems must have disappeared overnight!

Why bother with these silly buggers Marcus? Frankly, I don’t mind If bloggers swear. It’s not something I do on my blog because I consider it unbusinesslike.

As for transparency……..! Please save me the navel-gazing and egomaniacal introspection.
My first article was published over 50 years ago. I’ve been writing for ages! The one thing I’ve learnt is that writing is about readers not writers.

I sometimes suspect that a considerable proportion of bloggers haven’t learnt this lesson.

More power to the other 15 of us.

Have bloody fun mate!
Regards
Leon

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Are there bigger issues out there in the world Leon? Of course, but that’s why they make other blogs :-)

I write about stuff that affects writers, businesses, and content marketers. The idea of transparency, ‘true to self’, and voice is something that each one of us in this field are confronted with every day. Furthermore, people have strong opinions about this stuff.

So even though this may be piffle in the grand scheme of things, most of what I write about could be considered piffle, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t nor shouldn’t be addressed.

Make sense?

Love ya old man ;-)

Marcus

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Cristina Ansbjerg October 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I think this is a matter of respect. Cursing is rude and it says a lot about the person who does it.
If you can’t express yourself in your writtings without cursing, what kind of person are you?

Of course anybody can do what they want in their blogs. They could also show naked pics of themselves. Would it be nice? I highly doubt it.

Cristina

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Naked pictures ehhh? Hmmm, now that would certainly kill traffic here Cristina!! :-)

I appreciate your frank opinion, I really do. Seems like many people share it as well. And if so many share this opinion, my feeling is why take the risk? It is possible to please both sides of this, I’ve seen it done again and again.

Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment Cristina, that’s very kind of you.

Marcus

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Jon Stow October 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I am 100% with you, Marcus. Just like my old ham radio. No politics, no religion, no swearing, because you don’t know who is out there who might be offended.

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Yep, you never know Jon, that’s right. And when it comes to business, you never know what great offer was missed either, all because of something that was quite preventable.

Thanks for commenting my friend, appreciate it :-)

Marcus

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Laura Click October 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I totally agree with your point, Marcus. I think the transparency argument is an attempt to get businesses to be less robotic and more relatable. But, I I really do think some take the transparency argument too literally. There are just some things that don’t have a place in business.

We all put our best foot forward for a reason. That’s why we dress a certain way when we go to meetings and answer the phone a certain way when clients call. My “true self” may wear sweat pants on the weekends or answer the phone with a simple “hey!” when my friends call. That doesn’t mean I would do those things in business.

All that said, to use profanity or not all comes down to a personal choice about your brand. Some use expletives by choice – Naomi Dunford, Johnny B. Truant, Erika Napaletano and yes, even Jason Falls, just to name a few. It’s part of who they are as a brand. It works for them. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

You wear sweat pants Laura???! What? I thought you were always dressed for success! ;-)

Very good examples there. Our behavior is constantly changing, all the time, based on the circumstance.

Funny story about JB Truant– He spoke at Blog World this year in NY, and gave a great session, but what surprised me is that he didn’t even say a single curse word. Afterwards, I asked him why and his statement surprised me: “Yeah, I cuss all the time on my blog, but I’d never consider cussing at an event like this!”

Seems like everyone has a different take on this, that’s for sure.

Thanks so much for your thoughts Laura, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Marcus

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Laura Click October 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Darn! My secret is out! ;)

That’s interesting about Johnny, but not all that surprising. Sometimes, it’s easier to write it than it is to say it (and sometimes, it’s the other way around!).

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Eugene October 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm

There’s a place and a time for everything. I have absolutely no problem cursing around my friends, but that doesn’t mean that I will do it around someone I just met.

Does that mean that I am being dishonest or not true to myself?

If I’m not comfortable enough with someone to curse around them, and I don’t do it, I think that IS being true to myself.

Social conventions are a part of society. And if you are running a professional blog, then cursing may not always be appropriate. A personal blog may be more appropriate. It’s all up to you and the image you want to portray.

That doesn’t mean you are being dishonest or not true to yourself. That ludicrous.

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:50 am

Exactly Eugene. The phrase applies to both sides of the argument. When it comes down to it, our actions demonstrate a decision we’ve made on the amount of filtering we do. And just because one person filters more than another, depending on the setting, it doesn’t make them any more or less ‘true’.

Always good to see you bud,

Marcus

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Stan Faryna October 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Profanity can punctuate like nothing else. It brings existential emphasis to that which can not be adequately expressed in kinder words. Or it forcefully substitutes for better words that may be absent from your vocabulary. Profanity can convey a great emotion like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud.

But does it belong in your writing?

Marcus Sheridan reminds us that we naturally use different editorial styles when communicating to different audiences. Most of us tend not to use profanity when speaking with children, the elderly, or persons of honor and responsibility.

To those who say they are not being true to themselves when they refrain from using profanity in their writing, some of us must wonder if they lack self-control OR vocabulary and expression. [grin]

I have license to tease like that because I too have used profanity here and there. Sparingly. But profanity nonetheless. And every time that I did use it, I did weigh the matter in my conscience.

I would also argue that profanity is not the most sinister and terrible use of language. For example, very few expressions would be worse than a simple death threat. I know. Because I have received them.

Marcus Sheridan reminds us that if we want to serve as professionals (or be considered for an opportunity as professionals), we must act like professionals. Professional attitude and customs inspire trust, confidence, and buy. Nor must they be insincere. Professional attitude represents the consistent best that we can be in our relationships.

To those who say they do not need professional attitude and customs to inspire trust, confidence, and buy, they move the emphasis of their relationship to the results. If you can help me make me $1 million in two years with an investment of $1,000, I don’t fucking care if you come to our coffee shop meeting in a gaudy drag and every third word out of your mouth is French. [grin] The fact remains, however, that I’m going to need to be hearing from everyone that you really did it for other people… before you ever see my first $100.

Maybe, you’re not a professional. Maybe, you don’t aspire to be a professional. Horse trading works for you. Or cons. If that’s the case, why the heck would you be worried about being true, authentic, and real? Because if you are a horse trader or a con artist, those are the last things you care about. Think about your happy place and you keep on doing what you do. This is not a judgment against you. I’m just saying.

On the other hand, if you are writing as a writer, write what you want to write and any way you want. As John magnet Bell has told me, embrace your weird. Your audience will decide what is and is not appropriate for them.

But don’t confuse writing as a writer (pulp fiction, porn, or otherwise) with online marketing. Such confusions will not help you.

P.S. Sorry about putting you, Marcus, out there in the third person. Blame the soup!

Recently on my blog: Do you ignore the road signs too? http://wp.me/pbg0R-rq

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:55 am

But don’t confuse writing as a writer (pulp fiction, porn, or otherwise) with online marketing. Such confusions will not help you.

I really liked that statement Stan. In fact, there was a ton here that I found rather interesting but this one stood out.

Why? Because you’re right in the sense that a ‘writer’ is not the exact same thing as a ‘marketer’, but some would argue that in this digital age, we’re all publishers, writers, and marketers. Which means there is much gray area in there.

Notwithstanding, things are different for a true ‘writer’. I agree with that.

You’re a deep thinker Stan. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Marcus

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Grady Pruitt October 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm

for me personally is not much of an issue, personally because I don’t do it very often anyway. When I do drop one, it’s because I’m upset. but I can usually get that intent across in my writing without having to use it. I can’t think of a single time, in any of my writing, that I have had to use it. I don’t mind the occasional use used for effect, but overuse will drive away readers. And that’s what we want. As bloggers we all want readers and customers.

A great question for us to think about!

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 8:57 am

Hey Grady, appreciate this comment bud and that you took the time to come buy here and leave it.

You’re right–we all want readers and customers. That’s just the way it is. As to the strategy? Well that is what this debate is all about. ;-)

Best,

Marcus

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barbara October 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I think it totally depends on the blog. I read a few that swear and out of that few a couple sometimes make me cringe. Believe me it’s not because swearing offends me… I do it all the time… but because in some context it just feels wrong.

I understand many of the comments here. It’s lazy writing… it’s not being true… respect.
For me it is about respect. The same respect I had for my clients and co-workers when I was out in the corp. world. It always seemed unprofessional in the work place. My blog is my work place now and I don’t know everyone that drops in. Therefore I choose not to swear unless it’s necessary for the story I’m telling.

Now once we get to know each other we may both loosen up, but until then I will write the way I would speak to my grandmother.

Way to stir it up Marcus! Carry on!
b

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Marcus Sheridan October 13, 2011 at 9:00 am

It just feels wrong.

Very interesting point Barb, one that hasn’t been brought up in these 15,000 words everyone has said.

All forms of communication can seem out of place at times, but I don’t know if there is one worse than profanity. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit there are times when, for those that aren’t against it, can seem perfectly appropriate. But when someone uses it out of place they really appear either clueless or desperate…or both.

Thanks for always being such a kind support Barbara!

Marcus

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Jk Allen October 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Marcus – Great stuff my friend!

Being true to myself is doing what I want to do. I don’t use curse words in my blog…that’s my decision so I’m being true to myself by following that.

This statement isn’t an intelligent one …it’s flat out ignorant to say:
“If a blogger doesn’t curse then they are not being true to themselves.”

You called it dumb and I’ll second that notion. It doesn’t even make sense. How in the world can someone link cursing with a group of people being true to themselves. The only way I’d be okay with that statement is if it read like this:
“If I don’t curse then I’m are not being true to myself.” Throwing bloggers out there in a blanket like that, again, doesn’t even make sense.

Everyone filters what they say. If they don’t, then they should. There’s a time and place for everything. I would never, EVER curse on a business blog. Sure, some prospective companies may find it enticing (although I don’t know how), but who’s to say that others aren’t flat out turned off by the poor display.

Being respectful of time and place is being true to myself. I’m a considerate person so acting in contrary would be fake.

Good job on this one Marcus…as usual!

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Being respectful of time and place is being true to myself. I’m a considerate person so acting in contrary would be fake.

That is exactly the point I was trying to make with this article JK (but struggled to do so well). So I thank you for coming in here and stating it much better than I did. :-)

Your inner compass is clear and concise JK, and that’s what I appreciate most about you my friend.

Thanks for all,

Marcus

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Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog October 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Very interesting post. I’ve never really thought about it…

I don’t swear much (at home or at work) though the odd naughty word has snuck it’s way into my writing. That said, bloggers are a savvy lot, I’m pretty sure that when profanity is used (particularly by ‘successful’ bloggers), it’s intended.

It’s not there because it slipped out in the spirit of authenticity – an f’bomb is used to make a point. To punctuate, as Stan put it. It’s deliberate. It’s a marketing ploy – it’s an attention grabber. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hi Ruth! I really don’t have a problem if someone uses profanity or not in their writings. It’s my choice to read them, and their choice to write them. My issue really comes in this whole concept of transparency, authenticity, and ‘true self’– and the idea that we should be the exact same person, in terms of communication and behavior, in all walks of life.

Anyway, I really appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time to drop by Ruth and leave your thoughts, and hope you have a wonderful week. :-)

Marcus

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Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog October 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I agree – the debate worth having is relative to the concept of authenticity. And I think it’s baloney (note my choice NOT to use profanity here). What I was attempting to point out is that if bloggers swear in their posts, I suspect it’s a fairly deliberate and calculated choice. It’s intended to drive traffic, pique interest and leave an impression. It’s not a passive show of transparency. Does that make sense?

I also agree with you – leaving out certain parts of your life or personality online isn’t inauthentic. No more so than not posting naked photos/videos simply because you work from home naked (not encouraging any blog porn, just making a point).

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Ameena Falchetto October 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Interesting Marcus! I preface most verbs and adjectives with the F-bomb … sad to say, but I do. BUT I don’t write it. And I don’t say it to everyone. At ALL. In reality it’s the select few who know me REALLY well who put up with my potty mouth.

We all self monitor. Self monitoring is something we learn as children. It’s the reason we don’t run around naked, or pee in public or eat with out hands (obviously that is culturally dependent). Self monitoring is crucial to living as part of society. That does not mean we are being untrue to ourself. We select our best parts, put that forward and well, hope for the best. That’s LIFE.

Profanity is a personal choice. Personally I don’t mind it at all when used correctly. And yes, it can be used correctly by the select few. If you don’t use it normally why should you online?

Just because you talk differently to your grandma than you do to your best friend or you treat your spouse differently to your employee does NOT make you untrue to yourself.

Why don’t I use the F-bomb on my blogs? Well the answer is simple – I don’t want to alienate those who DO find it offensive. It’s NOT my brand. Am I being true to myself. Oh H-E- Double hockeysticks YEAH!

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Oh you make me smile you little Mummy Sailor you ;-)

Seriously though, this was well put Ameena (as always). You understand balance and branding well, and it shows in everything you do.

Thanks for being so awesome :-)

Marcus

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Brian Driggs October 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

When I got to the point in the post about how “we’re all here to make money,” two things popped into my head.

1. How is “We’re all here to make money” any different a blanket statement from saying bloggers must use profanity to be true to themselves?
2. “‘Baby don’t you sign that paper tonight,’ she said, but I can’t work in fast food all my liiiiiiiiife.” (Youtube: Reel Big Fish – Sell Out)

This is an interesting conversation, but can’t help but feel the debate is much ado about nothing.

The most frequently used tool in this gearhead’s garage is the F-word, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find me using it in the office, or in my comments. Still, it seems to me that mutual respect means I understand your desire not to hear such coarse language and make an effort not to offend you, but you also understand my right to use same, and make an effort not to make a big deal about it when I say $%^ you find offensive once in a while.

How powerful is this level of understanding?

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Brian, you’re typically a pretty cordial guy but you’ve skimmed this article and really missed the mark.

The sentence: The bottom line is we are here to make customers (at least most of us). does not appear to say “We are all here to make money.

Were you intentionally distorting that?

Also, if you read the post fully, you saw I wasn’t trying to spark a debate on the merits of profanity, as the main theme here is the idea of ‘Transparency, authenticity, and true to self’, and the idea that all of us filter our communication, and thus the idea of ‘true to self’ doesn’t hold water in my book as a reason to just be whoever we’d like.

So to answer your question, I don’t feel your level of understanding was very good at all.

Despite that though, I do appreciate your comment and the fact you read this blog.

Marcus

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Brian Driggs October 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Taken aback, I’ve spent much of the last three plus hours thinking; about my comment, about this post, and about your response, Marcus. I’ve skimmed this article and really missed the point?

You’ve made an assumption and insulted me, publicly.

Early on, you state, “If something we say while we write or present potentially distracts our audience and deters understanding of our message, then why wouldn’t we leave it out, especially if we could have stated it in another way and been just as effective??” This idea, presented only moments after the following bold lines and headings:

‘Being True’
If a blogger doesn’t curse then they are not being true to themselves.
It’s a lie, pure and simple.
There is a Proper Time and Place for Everything

I’ll admit, I don’t read like most people. I skim, then go back two, three times, or more, and buffer the material. It’s how I ensure that, as I progress through the piece in greater detail, I am more aware of the author’s intentions and better understand what he or she is trying to communicate. I do this before I race to the comment field to extol the virtues of the blogger with whom I agree completely (and get that sweet, sweet link juice back to my own sales/marketing/consulting blog).

I got your point. I fully understood what you were trying to say.

You, sir, glossed right over my point and threw me under the bus.

As I post this snarky retort, there are 30 original comments on this post. By “original,” I mean initial comments left by readers. I am not counting your replies or further nested comments (though I read them all, word for word – strangely, I feel a need to qualify this now).

Of those 30 comments:
29 reference the debate over profanity.

Only Danny @ Firepole Marketing made no reference to swearing or cursing or F-bombs or “lazy writing.” I noticed this as I read everyone’s thoughts prior to leaving my comment (to see how, if, the conversation might have shifted), though it is only now I felt compelled to actually add them up.

The conversation might have been about filtering and transparency, but it was framed almost entirely in terms of coarse language. I was trying to illuminate the dangers of relying upon blanket statements. Even supplementing We are here to make customers,” with the caveat, “at least most of us,” is STILL a blanket statement. Pot, meet kettle.

I wasn’t implying you were posing the profanity in blogging debate. I was implying the pointless of debating same. We all filter ourselves. All the time. It is who we are – or want to be, given the situation – in the mind’s eye. It is my opinion that, when we filter ourselves in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, we are selling out.

And I find that repulsive. Effing repulsive.

Products worth owning sell themselves.
Anything else is merely a socially acceptable con.

Oh, and when I said “How powerful is this level of understanding?” I wasn’t gloating. I was referring to the power of the unspoken understanding between people who attempt to honor each other with their filtering yet understand they will have their differences, and not let those differences get in the way of progress.

The fundamental acceptance of others for whom they are is reciprocated in the form of freedom to be one’s self, absolving one of the unnecessary weight of pretense.

I apologize for not being more clear AND for such an intense response, but I feel you completely misunderstood what I had to say and all but called me a simpleton in front of several people for whom I have a great deal of respect.

This is your sandbox. You are the Sales Lion. I am the Gearhead. We will have our differences. The question is, will our differences stand in the way of progress?

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Marcus Sheridan October 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Hi again Brian, and thanks for your thoughtful response. If you felt insulted publicly, I apologize for that. This blog is not about that. Nor is it about confrontation, as that’s not my thing.

We obviously are having some ‘communication’ issues here. I didn’t like being misquoted. You didn’t like feeling insulted. I get it, and am happy to move on from it man.

We’re not going to agree on much of this. That’s OK. I respect your opinion, I really do, and as I said before, I’m glad you are kind enough to share it.

Have a great night man,

Marcus

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Tom Ewer October 11, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Couldn’t agree with you more Marcus. We all filter. As for a blogger not being true to themselves if they don’t swear…was that *really* an argument that was put across?! What a load of rubbish!

In ‘real life’, I swear in certain situations and I don’t in others. It’s the way of the world. You wear different masks in different situations. It doesn’t mean that you’re not being “true to yourself”. It just means that you are adapting to your surroundings.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 12:51 am

adapting to your surroundings—That’s exactly it Tom. We all do it, whether we want to admit to it or not.

Thanks for stopping by brother! :-)

Marcus

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Melody | Deliberate Receiving October 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Hi Marcus,

I curse on my blog, but I agree with you. Being authentic is not the same as full disclosure. It took me a while to make the decision to really write the way I speak, and for my blog, I feel it’s relevant (and I only use it as such). It’s in your face, funny at times, real talk about a subject that generally doesn’t get treated that way. I don’t want to offend people and I don’t use truly horrific words (I don’t curse for the sake of cursing), but I express myself the way I want to.

I do not, however, write things that aren’t relevant, just for the sake of telling all. That would be the equivalent of running naked through the street. After all, we don’t consider wearing clothes as dishonest, do we? I don’t have to disclose all of my deepest darkest secrets, or the fact that the boy I kissed in the 5th grade was a jerk (or whatever) to let readers get to know the real me.

Hugs,
Melody

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 12:54 am

Being authentic is not the same as full disclosure

Very well said Melody, and I appreciate your input here.

It sounds like your blog does a great job getting your message across and being ‘you’, but also holding back that which you don’t feel fits what your audience is looking for.

To that, I say well done!

Thanks again Melody,

Marcus

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Nancy Davis October 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Hi Marcus,

I blog about all kinds of things. I very rarely curse in my posts, but for some it can’t be avoided. When I blog about rape, or sexual assault I do curse because it fits what I am blogging about.

I NEVER curse in front of my boy. He does not hear that language out of me, and I worked in an auto parts store for seven years :)

I do curse around my boyfriend when we are alone. He knows I really only curse when I am very tired/frustrated. I don’t curse for shock value.

To the transparency issue – I blog about many things. I even blog about sex on occasion (in a very general way and handled very respectfully of course) I am not going to lie to my audience, I have made huge mistakes in relationship and sex is an area many people have difficulty with. I do not tell my readers everything, but if they are ever going to put their trust in me about getting past painful relationships, I have to illustrate that I have gotten through those issues myself.

That does not mean I do not have other things that I have strong opinions about. Many of those issues are really not for my blog at this time. Out of respect for my friends, I don’t really discuss religion or politics unless asked a direct question. I do not feel that is appropriate for my blog.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Hey Nancy, so very glad to see you, as always. :-)

You have a unique pespective here because your blog is so personal, so experience based, that I can understand why you would have diverse tones in your writing, depending on the topic itself.

Like you, I have kids. My 10 year old daughter reads everything I write. She reads the comments too. I always take that into consideration as I occasionally have to filter as needed.

Have a wonderful week Nancy!

Marcus

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Jimmy October 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

The use of inappropriate tone or language online signals the inability of control on the part of the blogger. Delivering you message with emotions can be effective and necessary. This requires skill to use the right words and language to do so. I will give people with this skill to do so much more respect and trust.

If anything, the online world is a place where the young learn. We might be causal with our words, but they can do great harm by influencing our young negatively.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Very, very powerful thoughts Jimmy. I think many people forget who might be reading their blog. When people come on here and cuss in the comments section, I edit it immediately. I have diverse reasons for this but the biggest one is my 10 year old daughter reads everything I write, and every comment that comes through here. She is what sets my standards. :-)

Thanks so much for dropping by Jimmy,

Marcus

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Jimmy October 13, 2011 at 4:46 am

Yes Marcus. Children pick things up so quickly. I remembered my daughter (4) and son (2) picked up the phase “What the hell!” from us when we unconsciously spurted that out. Took us a long time before we could reverse that.

In certain ways, reading is more dangerous. You know kids can always go back to read your stuff over and over again. The messages we sent no matter how subtle will be ingrained very easily in them.

Currently, I am working very hard to start their personal development interest. It’s never too young to start, and I intend to start that for my children. That’s why I have also started a debate about personal development in school in my latest post. I hope you will check it out and give me your opinion on this.

Cheers, loved your book on inbound marketing, now on page 70. Sorry I can’t read faster because I can only read while commuting.

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Ryan Biddulph October 12, 2011 at 12:46 am

Hi Marcus,

Cursing is silly. Really. Offline. Online. 99.9% of the time, cursing is a non-creative way to convey an idea.

People respond poorly to non-creative people. People respond poorly to shock value. If we are REALLY being true to our true self, do ya think the amazing gift that we are, with unlimited abilities, would resort to cursing to get a point across? I think not.

Thanks!

Ryan

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Hey Ryan! Appreciate your thoughts on this man. You’ve certainly taken a side, and I can really appreciate that.

Thanks for keeping it real man,

Marcus

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Jack @ TheJackB October 12, 2011 at 1:57 am

I don’t worry about offending people. I write about religion. I write about politics and I swear whenever and however I feel like it. Those who don’t like it are welcome to move on to the next blog- there are no obligations or requirements to read me.

However, my primary goal is to use my blog to become a better writer so I am focused on becoming a better writer so my preference is not to rely upon those words. As Paul mentioned above it leads to lazy writing and that is not the sort of writer I want to be.

When I curse in the post there is a rhyme and reason for it. It is done because it is supposed to add flavor to the soup, but like any spice it should be used sparingly.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm

That’s what’s so cool about you Jack. You clearly understand your purpose to writing and what you’re all about. You have an identity, you have goals, and you have a clear direction (from what I can tell).

Thanks for dropping by man,

Marcus

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Elena Patrice October 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Love your response here Jack!!

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Jack @ TheJackB October 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Thanks!

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Stuart October 12, 2011 at 11:17 am

I remember having a brief conversation with Paul Wolfe about this topic Marcus, and it was one which I can understand why some people get riled up by it.

To some, swearing is on the same level as sinning, to others, it’s on the same level as Shakespeare. There’s no universal right or wrong here, no matter how much you argue the topic.

In fact, I’m going to ask you Marcus, was any conclusion reached after that Twitter debate? I’d be interested to hear if there was one, and if so, what it was.

For me, I swear rarely, but that doesn’t make me ‘anti-swearing’. I don’t flinch when I hear or read swear words, and as I actively encourage people to be real with their emotions, I can sometimes receive a barrage of swears. But it doesn’t bother me, because EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN WAY OF COMMUNICATING.

And that’s the bottom line :-)

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Great points Stu.

If there was one thing I very much noticed about the debate was the fact that after about 15 minutes into it, no one, and I really mean no one, was cursing in their comments. It was a very interesting shift and I raised more than one eyebrow as I saw it happen over the course of 60 minutes.

So what’s that tell us? I have my thoughts, but either way, it’s very, very interesting.

Cheers mate,

Marcus

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Joe @ Not Your Average Joe October 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hey Marcus, what the f#*%?? :-)

Seth Godin just had a post about getting better at writing by writing like you talk. Of course, if I wrote like I talked, Wordpress would probably burst into flames.

But I see nothing wrong with a little sprinkling of off color language just to get the point across. I’m with the opinion that too much of it just dilutes the meaning. I’m glad you keep it clean here with the “dangs” and the “darns”. Your writing seems to get along pretty well without the f-bomb. Thanks for another fine post here at TSL!

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

WordPress would probably burst into flames. ….Hahahaha Joe, you make me smile man :-)

But you’re Italian, and don’t the rules of all this communication and etiquette change for your people? ;-)

Oh, and I’m glad you appreciate my dangs and darns. When we meet in person, you’ll get your share I’m sure!

Take care bud,

Marcus

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Marlee October 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Hey Marcus,

The discussion in the comments here far surpasses and encapsulates anything I can say about this issue of filtering and transparency, but if I could add anything it would be: Consider your purpose.

Are you about business?
Are you personal?
Are you about entertainment?
Are you about business for those who like to entertain?

I think your “who” dictates your “how.” I think you will attract people to you by the way you represent yourself. Who is that? The rest follows naturally IMO.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I think your “who” dictates your “how.”

LOVE that Marlee. Really…dang…awesome you are. :-)

Can’t wait to see you soon!!!!!

Marcus

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Cheryl Pickett October 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Hi Marcus,
First, I agree with you that we all filter to some extent, and I also agree with those who’ve said that often using profanity frequently is a form of laziness both in writing or speech. I also agree that to many, professional language is different than casual conversation and profanity is not acceptable. That’s pretty much how I work too.

That all being said though, I also know of bloggers who clearly have the type of personality where profanity is as natural to them as the rest of their language patterns. How do I know? Because they frequently write that way. One even has profanity in the title of a product. And for them, not to write like this would mean significant filtering and I would say, not being authentic. They are who they are.

Does that mean they are not communicating professionally? To some, I’m sure, maybe some readers here. But those people aren’t their tribe, aren’t their audience. The people I’m talking about do run professional businesses in that they are established, respected in their own circle, are not flaky, fly by nights etc. Their tribe members happily comment on their blogs, buy from them etc.

Would you or I or others who prefer not to use profanity want to do business with them? Maybe, maybe not. And that’s okay with because they know who they are comfortable working with. It may not be us.

Along the same line, we know who we like working with as customers/biz partners and the words we use attract those people and repels others in their own way as well.

I think a key thing that hasn’t really been touched on much is we are all trying to attract a certain kinds of person that we want to do business with. What and who works for me, you or someone else never works for everyone. It is up to each business owner/blogger to figure out who their tribe is and the best way to connect/communicate with them. I may not like someone’s choice, but as long as they aren’t doing harm/violating laws, I need to respect them and vice versa.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Cheryl, this was way, way cool. Easily one of the best of the entire comment section here.

There is no doubt that there are many successful bloggers, business folks, etc that use all types of profanity. And whether they are being true to themselves or not, I can’t always say, but I honestly don’t fault them at all. There’s no question that it attracts a certain tribe, a certain customers, etc. And if they have all the business they want or need, no one can say they’re doing anything wrong. Heck, I sure can’t.

I could really go on about what you said because there were many great points, but I’ll just stop here and say ‘thank you’ for adding so much value to the conversation.

Smiles,

Marcus

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margie clayman (@margieclayman) October 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Marcus Marcus – the more I read of your stuff the more I like you :)

There is a lot about me that I don’t share in the online world, and it is BECAUSE I am being 100% true to myself. Even though I don’t tend to use Twitter directly on behalf of my business, I have the name of our family’s business in my Twitter bio, in my blog bio, and in my bio bio (wherever that may be). Clients can find me. My parents can find me! If I came out here and was all, “eff this” and “d-bag that” I think the general reaction would be the same that I have when I see it online. “Wow that person is SURE not in professional mode!”

I think it’s a shame, by the way, that we can’t safely talk about religion and politics in the online world. They are 2 of my most favorite topics, but people are so ready to be attacked that they attack first. We really miss out in that regard, I think.

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Gini Dietrich October 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm

What’s a bio bio?

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Way kind of you Margie. And I really enjoyed this.

Regarding religion and politics, I couldn’t agree more. I love discussion, but honestly have almost found no one that can deal with the religion/politics thing without getting all whacky. It’s a shame, really. So much great communication is never made all because of our inability to detach and discuss.

Thanks again for all Margie,

Marcus

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Deeone October 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hi Marcus, I’ve had my own concern on this topic for several weeks now. I’ve actually posed this exact concern to many other bloggers as well in various day to day conversations. I’m still a bit straddled on the fence myself as to what the correct etiquette is for best online practices. I find it interesting to read everyone’s thoughts though.

I’m an ex-Sailor myself, but I’ve managed to keep my Sailor mouth contained thus far, for the most part. I’ve never slipped an F-Bomb online, but that’s not to say that I haven’t wanted too. I might have even slipped a “H” “E” double hockey sticks in, every now and then. I run a story blog, and usually while my blog post are free from rough language; I have read other blogs that aren’t so reserved about the issue. I usually don’t mind it though. The thing that usually determines that for me is the rest of the content. If that’s good then the profanity really doesn’t matter much. If the content sucks, I’m usually running for the hills and never looking back. :)

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Hey Deeone, great content man.

Yes, content can mask many a curse word, that’s for sure. Gary Vee is a perfect example. I know many folks that hate his language but put up with it because the guy is so dang good and energizing to listen to. But if his content was average? See ya Gary!

I say this man: If you’re gut feels at all ‘off’ using a particular word or phrase, just stay away. Trust your gut. You’ll get great results, and a word here or there will never make or break the true effectiveness of a message.

Thanks again for stopping by,

Marcus

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Deeone October 12, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Gotcha! :) And that’s a very good point. The gut never steers us wrong. :) Thanks Marcus.

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Adam Toporek October 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm

So much has been said at this point, I am not going to rehash. I think it is a more nuanced argument for a personal blogger, where self-expression is more of a focus.

From the business perspective, I tend to think it is a wise strategy to NOT provide potential customers with reasons to take their business elsewhere. Prospective customers can find plenty of reasons on their own, why help them with something that adds little value anyway.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Prospective customers can find plenty of reasons on their own, why help them with something that adds little value anyway.

Easily one of the best points of this entire comment strand Adam (which is a long one btw ;-) )

Good to see you bud,

Marcus

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Julie | A Clear Sign October 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I totally agree that most of us filter. I oftentimes have to get really personal on my blog because of the subject matter, but I do it under the premise that sharing it helps others, period. OTOH I know a contractor who shall remain nameless but let’s just say is very close to my heart, who 95% of the time has no filter. And we all know most contractors curse when their thumb gets hit by a nail or just because…and he does it in front of his kids, his customers, and whomever. I am certain that he has lost potential clients because of it. So…oversharing, cursing, whatever our vice – there is absolutely a time and a place for pretty much everything.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Hey Julie! You make an interesting observation about your friend. I’m just wondering if he has noticed it, or if he is aloof. I find in general, most folks that offend through words/phrases don’t even realize they’re doing it because they think everyone else speaks the same way.

Anyway, so great to see you Julie and I hope you are have a wonderful week!

Marcus

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Jens P. Berget October 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hi Marcus,

I do what you do, and I write the way my “customers” expects me to.

But on the other hand, if I started out cursing on my first post, I don’t think that it would have been a problem. Because then my customers would expect me to write like that. I don’t want to start doing it now, that’s too late (by the way, I would never curse).

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Interesting how you talk about trends Jens. Yes, once we start a pattern, it’s hard to go away from it without potentially offending a whole bunch of people. Actually, I’d say it’s hard to get ‘saltier’, but not so hard to be less ‘salty’, if that makes sense.

Always great to see you my friend,

Marcus

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Steve | ROI detector October 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Shucks Marcus, you’re making me feel like a dirty sailor who needs to wash his mouth out. For me, true honest transparency includes the occasional curse word. But I definitely don’t do it all the time, especially in business settings (and I’ld get a lot of strange looks).

Profanity works for some businesses (Itty Biz is the first one that comes to mind) but most others…not so much. If you started cursing, I’ld start getting concerned ;-)

Side note – have you ever noticed how versatile the f-word is? Seriously, it can be a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. That’s some major flexibility for a 4 letter word, but I digress:-)

Thanks for your “honest and transparent” insights!

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

But Steve, you are a dirty sailor ;-)

I honestly don’t have issues with folks that choose vulgarity in a public/business setting. I wouldn’t do it, it doesn’t make sense to me, but I really don’t judge anyone. It just bothers me when I here people giving me the ‘true to self’ blurb when we all filter.

As for the F-word, you have some serious linguistic skills there my friend. ;-)

Thanks for dropping by bud,

Marcus

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Gini Dietrich October 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm

It’s funny you blog about this on the day I couldn’t bring myself to curse when it was a direct quote. Yes, I replaced the letters with dashes.

I wrote a similar blog post about a year ago and I got skewered. But, the fact of the matter is, my mom reads my blog. My grandfather reads my blog. Mr. D’s grandmother reads my blog. I would be mortified if they read curse words in it, even if I do use them sometimes when speaking verbally. I would NEVER say them in front of any of the three of those people so I’m not going to say them online. Ever. (Unless crap is a swear word.)

People make fun of me all the time. They TRY to get me to curse. But I just won’t do it. And THAT is the real me. It’s as transparent as you get. So the idea that I’m not being transparent because I won’t type curse words is baloney.

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Howie at Sky Pulse Media October 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm

My favorite podcast is Adverve.When Bill and Angela are alone they are authentic and they curse and are irreverent. When they have a guest they tone it down, unless it is someone similar. I think Spin Sucks would have more readers if there was more foul language. We need to get to PG13 at least if not R.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Hahaha, I don’t know Howie, when Gini did her ‘Mormons Make Great Leaders’ post a while back, it was like a Mormon convention all of the sudden in the comments section. Apparently Gini has her share of religious/conservative readers ;-)

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Gini Dietrich October 13, 2011 at 7:14 am

I have waaaaaaay more Mormon friends and readers than I ever could have imagined. You can take the girl out of Utah, but not the Utah out of the girl.

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Howie G October 13, 2011 at 9:16 am

Well….you both make good points but as they say in show biz you don’t know until you try it. I also think cute animal videos of them doing funny things in precarious situations would also boost traffic.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 11:07 pm

So is it ‘baloney’ or ‘bologna’??? (I always wonder about that one ;-) )

OK, so I’ve got to ask this….Are you sure you haven’t cussed on SS Gini? I know you do it rarely, but there have been a few times when I read some on your blog (no, I’m not counting), like with this article on productivity. Don’t get me wrong, and I’m not judging you whatsoever, but I just had to ask. :-)

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Gini Dietrich October 13, 2011 at 7:16 am

It’s bologna when you’re talking about the meat.

You’re right – I didn’t realize I said I had to get my S together in that blog post. Is that a swear word? Because my dad says it alllll the time.

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Howie at Sky Pulse Media October 12, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Really interesting question here because we all hate the two faced thing. Cursing to me is not two faced if you curse on your own time but not on professional time. Many people curse in professional work situations. There have been many ‘stories’ of top CEO’s/Executives who are abusive with their language when things don’t go right. I think the key is gauge your audience.

We have a weird culture. We glamorize things that could be damaging to our society. Cheating. Cursing. Stealing. Fighting. Mafia/Gangster.

Plus cursing is like a gateway action that leads to harder actions like stealing.

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Marcus Sheridan October 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm

I agree that ‘gauge your audience’ is a big factor. In fact, I think it’s everything. I think one of the big problems with all of this is the fact that sometimes we simply cannot gauge our audience. We assume they’re one way, and they’re not. Thus we end up alienating potential clients. Once we have reached a certain point in the relationship, then yes, things will likely change, on both sides.

But you’re very right, it’s certainly an interesting subject.

Thanks for dropping by friend,

Marcus

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Brent Carnduff October 13, 2011 at 12:24 am

Great article Marcus. Something that I have considered over the past month or so as I have started visiting more blogs. I considered using in a recent article (was never written) as it was very representative of the emotions that I was trying to express – couldn’t do it. Its not that I never curse, but I agree that “gauge your audience” is important. I do not curse around my kids, or the students that I teach, or my prospective/current clients. To me it just does not ring as “professional”, and I have found that reading curses in blogs really detracts from what otherwise may be great content. I know that this will ultimately be an individual choice for both blogger and reader, but I would caution any business blog from cursing in their articles. I thought that you made a great point about “being transparent about your products or services”. Keep up the great work!

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Hey Brent, always great to hear from you and it’s good that you seem to really ‘study’ bloggers as you go about this new field. There are plenty of lessons out there to be had by everyone who is just willing to watch and learn, so keep that up my friend.

Cheers brother,

Marcus

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Helga October 13, 2011 at 1:21 am

Hi Marcus…I have been checking your blogs and you never fail us to impress…This is really inspiring for me and I think I have to share this then…

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mimi October 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Maybe it’s because I’m about to enter my 6th decade, but I expect decorum and intelligent discourse on a blog. If I go to a blog and they are cursing up a blue streak, I am terribly unimpressed.
Imagine going to the supermarket and the clerk can’t speak without spouting expletives. Oh wait, they would have gotten fired first.
Can’t spell? Use your spell checker. THEN have someone else read it. Having a bunch
of properly spelled words in a paragraph does not mean it makes any sense.

If you have something for sale that I want, you could turn me off by: being too political; being too religious; or being outrageous with your language.

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Marcus Sheridan October 14, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Hello again Mimi :). I don’t think your expectations are antiquated at all, and I’m very much with you.

Thanks again for making a comment here and I hope your weekend is a great one.

Marcus

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Deb Ng October 15, 2011 at 8:35 am

I’m late to the party as usual, Marcus. But you know my take.

For me, it;s all about making people feel comfortable. I can tell you the majority of people I know may swear in the heat of the moment (for example when hammer meets thumb), but it’s not a part of their every day vocabulary and they’re not comfortable with people who punctuate every sentence with a swear word.

My high school journalism teacher once told us anyone can swear. It’s the truly creative people who can find better words to create an impact while making readers feel comfortable at the same time. I always remembered that. Also, I have a 9 year old son and lots of nieces and nephews. I don’t want to write something that might make them feel uncomfortable or turn me into a poor role model.

Finally, my blog and my writing is a representation of me, and by extension, the people I work for. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression either way.

Do I swear? Yes, but never in front of people who are uncomfortable with it, and I don’t swear for swearing’s sake. Do I swear on my blog? Not really, but I use lots of stars and exclamation points.

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I think you have an excellent perspective Deb, as you’re able to see language and communication as a whole– and how it affects you, your family, and those you acquaint with.

Just another reason why I think you’re awesome ;-)

Really getting amped for November,

Marcus

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Mitch Mitchell October 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I thought I had commented on this post before, but I guess not.

I’ve never uttered a curse word in my entire life; trust that one to be true. Therefore I tend to believe that when people say using language like that makes them authentic I blanch with total disbelief. Very few people using that kind of language grew up hearing it in their households; well, at least from my generation. These days there’s not a place I can go where someone isn’t talking on their phone or to their friends saying that stuff in public; ugh.

It will deter some people from participating on your blog because anything that goes online stays online, and few people want that following them around, even those that use that type of language. This is a major reason why I could care less about visiting the blog or or reading the book by Gary Vanderchuk, and why I’ll never listen to another interview of him or a presentation by him online. To me, the message just gets lost in all the cursing. Some people will overlook all of that; I’m not one of them. I don’t consider myself a prude; I just think there’s a time and place for language of that type, and that place isn’t in every day conversation.

Yeah, I know, it’s always me… :-)

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Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors October 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Mitch, not sure how old you are but a lot of us DID hear profanity at home. For me, a person who has uttered some scatological terms and a few other milder expletives probably just this week, I have to tell you that once you get these words into your head (I married a Marine) it takes a conscious effort NOT to use those words even if you HATE those words. So I suppose someone with less restraint and/or less scruples will not even know that they can keep those words from coming through their lips.. that is, unless they are having dinner with their grandmother. :-)

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Mitch Mitchell October 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Mimi, believe it or not I’m the son of a military man, a non-comm, who rarely said anything untoward while I was in the house; I’m in my 50′s. My dad was the type who’d leave the room if a PG movie had any bad language and a woman other than my mother was in the room; that’s the type of respect I learned and have stuck with. I’m sure my dad cursed in the course of the work he did, but at home, in front of kids, only when really mad, which was rare.

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I don’t consider myself a prude; I just think there’s a time and place for language of that type, and that place isn’t in every day conversation.

That’s exactly it Mitch. You’re not prude at all. In fact, your thoughts represent the thoughts of millions.

Thanks for always be so true to self my friend,

Marcus

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Rick Calvert October 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Stan already made the point about the “purpose” of a blog. If you are creating content to eventually attract customers and sell some form of product then in most cases you are going to leave out language and topics that may offend your potential customers. That is just smart business.

But in some cases, the tone of your content, and the blunt discussion of normally divisive topics are exactly what creates a brand for some. Jason is a great example of that. His book is called No BS Social Media. He is going to sell books based on that title alone. There are others who won’t buy it simply because of the title and still more people will buy Jason’s book because they know him or have heard him speak and know this is how he speaks every day. He is honest, he is frank, he is blunt. That is refreshing to many people and is an effective marketing tactic.

Of course you don’t curse on your blog Marcus, you don’t do it in your daily life. For you to throw in an occasional blue word would come across as phony. You are you, and you represent yourself very accurately here on your blog. You said so yourself early on in you post, you offer your honest opinions about your products good bad and ugly. Your customers believe they know what they are getting before they do business with you.

The same is true for someone like Jason. His customers know very well what to expect from him and choose to do business with him because they know what they are going to get with him.

As for filtering for the occasion. We all do it, as someone else said, that’s just being respectful of others.

You mentioned politics and religion which is a really good point Marcus. Those can easily be as offensive as adult language and even more polarizing. I was a political blogger. My passion for politics is what drew me to new media. They day I decided to launch BlogWorld is the day I quit posting on my political blog because I knew even though I was respectful on my blog with anyone who disagreed with my point of view some people would never even consider our event if they had differing opinions.

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Hey Rick, some great points and observations man.

I think it’s interesting how you stopped your political blog. Many people might call that ‘selling out’. I’d call it smart business.

Appreciate your perspective brother and looking forward to chatting in LA.

Best,

Marcus

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Alden October 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

Great article. I never thought I would read an article on the topic of profanities and cursing in blogging.

My blog has a lot of swear words. I don’t deny that. But for me, it somehow actually adds to humor. I have friends who told me that they like what I write because it’s funny and also meaningful. When I write, the curse words just flow like water.

I think it’s really up to the individual because at the end of the day, I think blogging becomes good when the power of authencity is in placed. I think if people can really fit your writing style to your face, it’s all good.

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Marcus Sheridan October 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I don’t disagree at all Alden. It’s the writer’s decision, absolutely.

Good luck with you and your blog, and I’m grateful you took a minute to stop by!

Marcus

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Josh Sarz October 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

We all have to be true to ourselves on our blog, but being true doesn’t necessarily mean we have to curse.

I rarely, rarely curse online. Offline, yeah sometimes when something bad happens.

I’m not the type of person you’ll hear cursing on the street, but I’m still myself on my blog, and in everything I do.

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