The A-2-Z of business blog writing: U is for Unsafe For Work

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Is what you write in your business blog posts truly “safe for work?”

“Unsafe for work” is a bit of a cheat really as the proper term is “not safe for work,” but as it’s an important issue to think about with your business blogging I hope you’ll forgive the small transgression.

Obviously we’re not looking at many people who are going to blog about porn and other lewd topics in their business blog posts, but the issue goes beyond the obvious and can even include the use of relatively mild swearwords.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it

Not suitable/safe for work (NSFW) is Internet slang or shorthand. Typically, the NSFW tag is used in e-mail, videos, and on interactive discussion areas (such as Internet forumsblogs, or community websites) to mark URLs or hyperlinks which contain material such as nudityviolencepornography or profanity, which the viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as at work.

I won’t bore you with a long monologue about the background to NSFW but if you’d like to read a brief history, click here. Unsurprisingly it has given rise to numerous bawdy-laughter parodies and even a TV series using that name. Provided you’re pretty broad-minded and have a good sense of humor, a lot of it is very funny. But not everyone feels that way – especially a) in a business context and even more importantly b) in your customers’ opinions.

So how do you benchmark what is and isn’t safe for work?

Unfortunately however many people you ask, you’ll get a slightly different answer each time as to where you draw the line. Everyone does draw a line somewhere but it can be anywhere from hardcore pornography to using words like “damn” and “blast.”

StumbleUpon, that delightfully virtuous sharing platform so popular in the USA especially, once told me to go sit on the naughty step and I was not allowed to share any more that day. Not having used any four-letter words or anything vaguely sexy in my text I was puzzled when suddenly I realized that I had used the word “whiskey.” I removed the word and hey presto, I was teacher’s pet again.

Quite why children would be reading business blog posts and become instant alcoholics as a result of that one, I’m not sure. Frankly most 9-year-olds know more about booze, designer drugs and sex than I do and would regard whiskey to be about as appealing as knitting lessons with grandma. But StumbleUpon obviously disagrees and that can’t have been a frivolous decision.

Here are some suggestions of key areas to avoid:

  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Ageism
  • Homophobia
  • Explicit things about sex
  • Rude words and harsh vulgarisms
  • Offensive remarks about religion, and religious swearwords
  • Vulgar/offensive comments about minority groups, people with disabilities, etc.
  • …plus anything else that your common sense tells you.

What you also need to watch out for depending on your audience

  • Reference to alcohol and drugs
  • Darwin and evolution (if your audience is mainly Christian, especially in southern USA)
  • Anything connected with sex
  • Gay marriage
  • Political views
  • …plus anything else that knowledge of your readers tells you.

blog,writing,news,blogging,business,Suzan St Maur,,how to write betterThat’s the key, as always: know your readers and that knowledge will guide you to write what works well for them.

What issues have I forgotten?

What else would you say is “unsafe for work” in your business blog posts?

Please share!

photo credit: tafuzzyrecords via photopin cc