The Guardian‘s corrections column co-editor Barbara Harper explained the newspaper’s standards for using profanity after readers complained over the use of the word c**t in a Nov. 8 story, “Marine faces life term after being found guilty of ‘executing’ Afghan insurgent.” [iMediaEthics’ editorial policy instructs to use asterisks.]
The Guardian‘s style guide basically says that if using a curse word is necessary, then the newspaper should just print it instead of censoring it out. But, curse words really are supposed to only be included if in quotes.
“Never use asterisks … which are just a cop-out,” the styleguide dictates.
“That guidance also states that there is almost never a case for using a swearword outside direct quotes and that the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it,” Harper wrote.
But, the guidance is dated — it was created in the late ’90s — and Guardian reporters include curse words in their writing, she said. And, online commenters are allowed to include profanity. “We allow readers to swear, too, when commenting on articles, although not if the words are abuse directed towards other people, or gratuitously offensive,” Harper explained.