When is Vulgarity Acceptable?

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Wendy’s blog made me consider why vulgarity is inacceptable in news writing, while it is accepted in some other things.  I think that there is a clear distinction between what newspapers print and theaters, music, and films.  Theaters, music, and film are creative works which are not serving to report factual information.  At times there may be fact in these things, but that is not their primary function.  It is the artists creative license to include vulgarity if they so wish.  Vulgarity could in fact serve a specific purpose in some cases.  For example, maybe a character in a play swears all the time to show the audience something about that character’s personality.  Furthermore, it is one’s choice whether they watch a play, listen to a song, or see a movie.  If they are offended by the language, they can always leave or turn it off.  Some of these (such as movies) have rating systems as well which help people to decide whether there could be language in it that they might find objectionable.  Newspapers do not have a little code at the top of each article that says, “Warning, this article includes strong language, sensuality, and violence.” 

Newspapers are read by a plethora of different people and therefore, journalists need to err on the side of caution.  In addition, while in theater (or one of the other things listed above), the vulgarity may serve a specific purpose to help the audience perceive something about somebody; news writing is not really meant to do this.  It is meant to state the facts in a simple, inoffensive way.  Including a vulgarity that someone said in a quote will add very little to the facts of the article. 

Return home. 

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