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Nancy DanielsBy Featured Speaker Nancy Daniels

Recently I had the opportunity to hear an international speaker address a large group of women. The women’s ages ranged from their 20’s to their 60’s. While the speaker used the F-word once, the silence in the large ballroom was much more apparent when he then used a 4-letter word that begins with ‘d.’ And he was not referring to a duck!

The use of questionable language when addressing an audience is not in good taste and is offensive. In case you were unaware of this little tidbit, the 4-letter word that begins with a ‘d’ may be considered slang but, according to the dictionary, it is a vulgar term. Vulgar language is “lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste.” It is also coarse and morally crude.

I can appreciate that there is a generation of young people who may not be offended with ‘colorful’ language; however, if you are addressing an audience of mixed ages, it is to your benefit to avoid certain words that the majority of people still consider indecent. This is why knowing your audience in advance is paramount to your success.

Back in April of 2009, a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court, “upheld the government’s crackdown on ‘fleeting expletives’ and said broadcasters could face heavy fines for airing the F-word or the S-word even once during prime time.” They considered this ruling to “offer families a ‘safe haven’ from foul language.”

How do you know which words are acceptable and which are not? If you are addressing a mixed or all-female audience, or if you have been invited to speak to a business, corporation, non-profit organization, or a place of worship, the following rule should apply.

  • If it cannot be printed in a national newspaper; i.e. The New York Times, then do not use it in public speaking.

Another way to look at this situation is to consider the following:

  • If it is a word that you would not use in front of your mother, then it is unacceptable.

[If your parents are ‘baby-boomers,’ then it is possible that you do speak in vulgar terms in front of them. If such is the case, stick to the above rule dealing with a national newspaper.]

Remember, no one will be offended if you do not swear; however, some will be offended if you do. Public speaking is a tough business and becoming successful at it is difficult. Don’t jeopardize your success because of vulgar or indecent language.


The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on upcoming workshops, visit Nancy’s Voice Training Workshops.

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