Last week, a senator from New York made headlines after she dropped the f-bomb in a speech at the Personal Democracy Forum in her home state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand used the coarse language to demonstrate her disappointment with the state of political affairs. According to ABC News, Gillibrand said, “If we are not helping people, we should go the f— home.” It’s not everyday that you hear a member of the United States federal government shout a profanity in public, so naturally it caught many news outlets and media viewers off-guard. But, the senator received plenty of cheers and applause to validate her cursing. The whole ordeal leaves many presenters like us scratching our heads.

Critics of Gillibrand argue that curse words correlate to the inability to conduct meaningful discourse. But, contrary to what your moms and grandmas have told you, people who incorporate swear words in their daily rhetoric have a more expansive vocabulary than those who keep communications PG. Marist College researchers discovered that the foul-mouthed possess a greater understanding of expressions and complexities.

“The ability to make nuanced distinctions indicates the presence of more rather than less linguistic knowledge, as implied by the POV [Poverty of Vocabulary] view.” – Kristin L. Jay and Timothy B. Jay

The study results indicate the benefits of racking up a vast library of curse words; however, are they ever appropriate to speak during a presentation? Consider 2 factors before cursing in your next speech.

Cursing in Presentations

1. Relevant Pattern

If you typically adopt a brash persona, cursing might align with your presentation style. Basically, if it would be more strange to your audience for you NOT to curse, then it’s probably permissible for you to do so. Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the presenters who would fall into this category. His business personality is blunt and ardent. He doesn’t beat around the bush with his audiences and his body language and rhetoric are a product of that approach.

Even Gillibrand built a reputation for herself as a more rough around the edges type of communicator. In her 2014 book, Off the Sidelines, the senator wrote in an open and pointed way – establishing herself as the type of character that uses strong language when she deems it necessary.

2. Potential Impact

Are you hoping to reach a wide range of people with your message by sharing it outside of a particular venue or webinar? Or is creating a meaningful connection with the current audience your objective? Your answers to the previous questions matter when deciding whether or not cursing is appropriate during your presentation. For a speech you want to encapsulate the expectations of a diverse audience into, you should err on the side of clean rhetoric. On the other hand, cursing could be a convincing tactic for touching audience members authentically. Consider the potential impact cursing could have on the perception of you as a speaker and of your ideas in general.

More Advice From the Ethos3 Blog:

How to Craft Impactful Presentation Messages Like Tim Cook

The 5 Presentation Design Steps All Presenters Should Know

Types of Presentation Titles to Attract a Larger Audience


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