My new pet peeve, the thing that irritates me the most about moderating comments, is having to delete an excellent post because of one poorly chosen word that often is not even spelled out. Commenters will post a several-hundred word, carefully crafted argument and then in the last sentence throw in a four-letter word that is three-quarters asterisks. After burying my face in my hands for a few seconds, I dutifully click "remove" and as politely as possible ask them to repost an amended version.
They aren't all like that. Often it's just random foulness, but those are easy. It's the thoughtful ones that are difficult.
No one likes being told their word of choice is inappropriate. I can sympathize; I've had a few steely eyed editors delete entire paragraphs of mine without even a by your leave. I think they enjoy it. I guess that's what makes them editors.
In a forum such as ours, where anonymous people can post comments on the most controversial of topics, a set of standards and a trustworthy profanity filter are absolutely necessary. I've received some negative feedback about our profanity filter. I can add some of my own. It's mysteriously been turned off at one or two inopportune moments. Maybe someone in corporate is trying to keep me on my toes.
We can choose certain words and phrases for automatic deletion. George Carlin's seven dirty words you can never use on TV is a handy place to start, but in today's Internet-savvy world, it's not easy to keep track of every obscure acronym that pops into the head of a teenager in Muncie, Ind. And from there... the world. We have to use our best judgment.
You have no idea how much I wish I could give you a comprehensive list. Then I could just add them to the profanity filter and move on to the next issue. But as I recently told a commenter, there are too many clever people on our Web site who take it as a point of pride to find ways around our filter.
I'm regularly amazed at the new and interesting ways to spell parts of the anatomy and various bodily functions. Sometimes it's amusing, sometimes distressing, but regardless of intent or profanity-tolerance, we have a set of standards and we're sticking to them.
Don't let your comments fall prey to that one inappropriate word. If you feel the need to use random characters to spell a word, just don't use it. We're looking for "*@%&" and "^%&*" and don't forget "!#*%^" If we leave it, we will be asked to defend it. If I can't defend it, I'm removing it.
I'll have another column in Sunday's technology section, so look out for that and have a good weekend.