Get your mind into the gutter: A must for content creators

By Tracy Mallette

When creating content, it’s not just spelling, grammar, facts and compelling, quality writing that you need to worry about. There’s a danger lurking on the page that keeps writers and editors up at night with visions of their careers flashing before them.

My cat Daisy is disgusted by obscene content.Namely, the word “public”.

If you’re in the writing, particularly newspaper, business, you know why this is a scary word.

If you’re not, this word is easily misspelled as “pubic”. Imagine the horror of parents reading about their “pubic schools”! What makes this word especially terrifying is that “pubic” is a word, so spell check won’t pick it up.

And it’s not just that word that worries editors, but the similar potential for other words and phrases to come together in a similarly obscene way. On top of spell checking, grammar fixing and fact checking, it’s also the copy editor’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. (This is made more difficult by sneaky reporters who try to slip innuendo into their copy hoping editors will miss it. You know who you are!)

As a content creator, you need to prevent unintentionally obscene language, too.

Think dirty

There’s a saying in the news business: A dirty mind is a copy editor’s best friend.

If you don’t know what I mean, you probably haven’t seen this headline that I saw via Grammarly’s facebook page: A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt.

Yikes!

If the person who wrote that only thought LONG and HARD … OK, moving on.

As hilarious as that headline is, you don’t want it to happen to you – or your company or client. You need to cultivate a dirty mind to create content that won’t offend, embarrass and/or get you fired.

Don’t worry, if you have trouble thinking filthy thoughts, there’s help for you. Play the game Dirty Minds, where participants are given obscene-sounding clues to guess an ordinary object. Heck those of us with a healthy dirty mind, should play it anyway because it’s a blast – and it’ll be harder for you to get past the dirty clues to guess a good, clean object!

If thought perversions are just beyond you, at least we all have a dirty-minded friend or co-worker to turn to. Ask this person to read your content before publishing to catch accidentally hilarious and/or offensive material.

Bottom line: Examine content long and hard before printing something that will have readers thinking about long, hard things.

Please share your own obscene-content mistakes and advice for preventing them. Thanks!

This post was inspired by my friend Kristyn Harvey LeBlanc, who shared Grammarly’s A-Rod headline with me, asking “Hey Ex-Journalist – Do these things really happen in the news world? Inquiring minds want to know.” They definitely do, Kristyn! And hopefully, with this post, it’ll happen less. Thanks for the inspiration!

3 thoughts on “Get your mind into the gutter: A must for content creators

  1. Avoiding this sort of thing is easier if you have the right training–namely, being a junior high school boy. Cafeteria tables are a verbal minefield, where one’s barely-teen loser friends all sit waiting for the chance to pounce on anything you say as proof that you’re gay, have the hots for an ugly girl, are incontinent, or are gay.

    Years later, dangers still loom. “Birch” is a troubling word, and it’s everywhere in home goods.

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