According to Jeff Atwood, "Expletives are not acceptable behavior on meta or any other Stack Overflow site."

My question is: to what degree (if any) does this apply in chat as well as on meta or main?


2 Answers 2


If we're going for a general rule here, I would say that Jeff's statement holds equally well in chat as it does on any site within the network. Swearing is not okay. I think of the network as a (largely) professional environment. And swearing has no place in it.

There are admittedly chat rooms in which language is somewhat more colourful than on the main site. And context is sometimes important as well. But even in those situations keep it to an absolute minimum and, as the user who swore, don't come complaining if your messages get flagged or if you end up being suspended from the room.

  • 5
    one of the problems with how flagging works now, is that if a flag is raised, it is seen in the entire network by those users that have 10k rep. And some are just too hasty to accept the flags, without caring for the context. So, it has been seen that automatic ban decisions are made by people who have not even read the flagging comments long enough to graps the contex. Apr 17, 2013 at 15:14
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    @ypercube Yep, I am aware of that. On the one hand I can imagine it's frustrating, especially if you end up suspended for something that's (within the context) not nearly as serious as it seems. (Several of those cases have been brought up on Meta afaik) On the other hand, it might help keeping a room from veering too far off track in total isolation.
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:17
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    Well, at least some of the rooms I've already seen are not places for professional talk. Or not all the time; for example, in The Heap sometimes you can follow the highest-level DW discussions ever :) - however, those are more places where the professionals hang out. And a professional sometimes swears loudly, hitting his/her keyboard repeatedly. Isn't this considered professional behaviour?
    – dezso
    Apr 17, 2013 at 16:04
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    @dezso Professional behaviour, not so much. Human behaviour, you bet.
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2013 at 16:05
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    I never hit the keyboard when away from work (and not because I don't have one)
    – dezso
    Apr 17, 2013 at 16:07
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    Then again, just because you're at work, doesn't mean you're behaving professionally.
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2013 at 16:09

Since the MPAA doesn't publish guidelines around what words will make ears bleed, I feel the best method for determining what words are appropriate is by deciding the age rating for each room. Let's say that The Heap has an R rating. These words would be censored in the transcript, but visible to anyone who enters (after clicking some box saying that they understand there may adult language). Perhaps we can use a calculated formula for how many f-bombs or s-bombs can be used in a 24 hour period.

What I think the real issue is if the expletive is used towards another person. If I say

@JackDouglas You're a piece of poop*

This would be considered inappropriate and should be flagged. But if I say

@JackDouglas I've had a poopy* day

This should be allowed since the audience of the room is adult.

*Poop is a synonym

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    You want to give ratings to each room? What a poopy idea. Apr 17, 2013 at 14:59
  • Why on earth is putting swear-ratings on rooms a good idea?
    – djechlin
    Apr 17, 2013 at 14:59
  • @djechlin At least in The Heap, we all know each other and are comfortable with the language being used. Unfortunately we don't have the option to secede from the network.
    – Kermit
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:01
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    Flagged. "p o o p y" offends me
    – swasheck
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:03
  • Yes you do, you can start a forum or your own website with its own standards wherever you please. But if you're going to be on SE's network you need to be welcome to people you're not pretty comfortable with yet.
    – djechlin
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:03
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    @swasheck: I'm confused. You flagged the comment but not the answer? Apr 17, 2013 at 15:04
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn sorry - didnt even see that in the answer itself. but i dont want to get in trouble for too many flags.
    – swasheck
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:07
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    I don't think we need per-room ratings. But I don't think random 10K users should be able to decide on flags raised in a room they're not in. Related
    – Aaron Bertrand Staff
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:10
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    What the Dickens is an R rating? "18" rating in British? Oops
    – gbn
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:13
  • @gbn R as in "Restricted". 18 or over in the US afaik.
    – Bart
    Apr 17, 2013 at 15:14
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    Clbuttic. Maybe we could have a Stack Exchange "Conbrestution" which would address some of these issues. Apr 17, 2013 at 15:26

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