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How can I Avoid Using Profanity?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Though it is common to hear profanity virtually everywhere, it is still possible to learn how not to use it. Profanity is actually a fairly limited language, which can offend or hurt people’s feelings. In addition, profanity is often picked up by the small children around whom it is used. Using profanity is a breakable habit that may be helped by a few tips.

First, consider our language. We have multiple ways to express our feelings, and profanity tends to leak out when we most need to express our feelings. One helpful way to break from using profanity is to arm oneself with an emotional language. “That hurts my feelings,” “I am really angry,” or “I feel frustrated.” “I’m tired,” or “I’m impatient and cross.”

The more we learn our own language, the more ways we have to actually express our own feelings without resorting to profanity. Especially since one has so many other ways one can “use our words,” avoiding profanity may actually allow us to express how one truly feels. In front of children, this type of expression is very helpful, because it teaches them the emotional language they will need to cope with difficult situations or challenging feelings.

Another tool for helping to avoid slips of the tongue is to always use language that one would use with either a young person, or someone elderly. If dear grandma were in the room, would one really choose the s or f-word? If a young niece or nephew was over and one stepped on a toy, would one let out an offensive exclamation? Consider that in public, someone’s dear old grandma or sweet child may be nearby.

If one does slip, say what one should have said. It helps to get in the habit of saying the words that don’t offend. Also, apologize for a word slip in a public venue. Recognize this behavior as potentially harmful or offensive and own one’s mistakes. Apologizing can be a healthy way to remind one that such language is now off limits.

Another method some find helpful is the profanity fine. If one slips and says a word, impose a reasonable fine. For teens, this could be a quarter, and for adults perhaps a dollar. Donate the money to one’s church or to a charity.

Some new parents substitute nonsense words for profanity, and this may be helpful. Another technique is to actually let out a bleep or buzz sound as would occur on television. Censoring oneself can be a good initial step toward moving onto more inventive words.

Some might argue that about the only acceptable time to use profanity is if one is acting in a part that requires such. At other times, the richness of the English language offers many words that are far more expressive of true feelings. Though this may be a difficult habit to break if one uses profanity frequently, it is not impossible. While profanity is often called “colorful,” truly colorful language expresses one’s varied vocabulary and ability as a speaker.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon306666 — On Dec 01, 2012

After sixth grade I've been cursing lately and I really want to stop badly. I chose my friend Eli, who dislikes cursing and made him my role model along with God, because God doesn't like such vulgarity.

By anon281517 — On Jul 24, 2012

Here's a tip that worked for me while I was in high school and around vulgarity nearly 24/7. I made an effort to catch myself every day if I cussed and would mentally correct myself. I did this vigilantly for twi weeks straight and then it just clicked and I was able to not cuss "casually" anymore. It also depends on the people surrounding you, as well.

By anon268860 — On May 15, 2012

"Just words"? Words are our species' chief vehicles for conveying thoughts, feelings, and reality. The words at issue here are violent ones. There is a difference between saying, "I'm so angry right now!" and "I'm bleeping angry right now!" The latter includes a verbal assault on the listener.

In addition, if you believe there's no difference, why should you have any objection to not using obscenities?

By anon240707 — On Jan 15, 2012

Can someone explain to me what's the point of not swearing? They're just words, and substituting them for technically "less offensive" ones doesn't at all change the sentiment of what you're saying. Saying "I'm so angry right now!" instead of "I'm bleeping angry right now!" is the exact same intent and emotion. Words are just sounds; nothing more, nothing less. There are far bigger things to worry about in this world than vulgarity (i.e., poverty, racism, starvation, etc., etc.).

By pollick — On Oct 06, 2009

Many people who were raised around casual profanity as children and continued to hear it as young adults become conditioned to using it as filler as adults. Sometimes a person can use profane words so often that they no longer sound profane or offensive to their own ears. I know in my own experience that some of my relatives used hardcore profanity to describe or punctuate just about anything. Trying to unlearn such casual use of profanity is not going to be easy. It can be just as hard as eliminating "ums," "you knows" and "ers." One thing you can try is slowing your speech and concentrating on each word as it comes out of your mouth. When you talk fast, it's easy to slip and say "Pass the ___ potatoes", or "Clean up your _____ room!". If you slow down and think about what you really want to say, you'll give yourself more time to stop forming profanity. You could also avoid using profanity even when the people around you might not be offended. It's easy to get into a conversation with another adult and tell a dirty joke or use a profane word instead of something less offensive. Even if everyone else in the room is using casual profanity, learn to tune it out of your own responses until it starts sound more natural to use normal language. If nothing else, scare yourself with the thought of your young, impressionable child dropping an F-bomb in front of his or her teacher. You clearly don't want that phone call, so force yourself to do whatever it takes to keep it clean around the children.

By lneasley — On May 15, 2009

I'm a woman who seems to use profanity often. My children knows that those are "*bad words*" and children shouldn't say them, however sometimes they slip. I don't know what to do to change the way I express myself, so I'm able to be an example for them. Does anyone have any suggestions?

By anon25408 — On Jan 28, 2009

Hi. I just joined the No Cussing Club online yesterday. I have been using profanity on almost a daily basis for 26 years. Just in the last year I set the goal to stop using the "f" word and the "sh" word around my little girl. When she got in trouble at school for using the "cr" word (my replacement for the "sh" word), I decided it was time to really crack down on it. My mother, an English major, taught me this type of language, if you can believe that. She told me when I was a teenager, "You can use any word you want in this house, but if you use a cliche I'll slap the _ _ _ _ out of you." So, this is a real challenge for me. But your article was helpful. Really thinking about the vocabulary that I have access to is not only more wholesome but also makes me feel better about myself. Thank you for your tips.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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