My grandmother was extremely intolerant of certain language. In addition to the usual cuss words that weren’t allowed around her, she wouldn’t even allow what were considered to be harmless variations. You not only couldn’t say ‘damn’ or ‘god’, words like ‘darn’ and ‘gosh’ were forbidden. She once severely chastised my grandfather for exclaiming ‘by Jove’ in my hearing.
While I am not as strict as my grandmother, I would like my comment space to be one in which she would be comfortable participating. I won’t necessarily censor the same words she would have, my main concern is with personal disparagement of others participating. Since I am a grandmother myself now, I feel comfortable with calling my rule the grandma rule. Some people will find it prissy. I’m okay with that.
As a basic rule of thumb, phrase comments such that you would be comfortable if the person you are speaking with turned out to be your prissy grandmother. If you don’t have a prissy grandmother, picture a friends prissy grandmother on the receiving end.
If you want more detail, I’m going to refer you to the Camels with Hammer’s pledge. While I find it overly long and wordy (hence my ‘grandma rule’) it covers the majority of situations in detail. I have some minor quibbles with some of those details, but I am in accord with the general approach being advocated.
The following sentence is an example of civil argument making a very valid point against a statement made by Michael Shermer on the blog ‘rationally speaking’.
The bias is inherent in the definitions you make and the data you choose to examine from the infinite choices before you.
The following sentence is an example of incivility despite the fact that no ‘bad’ words are used. This is a personal attack against Mr. Shermer for merely making the argument at all.
For a supposedly scientific person, Shermer naively swallows an awful lot of garbage without critical analysis. Shermer should get horse-laughed out of the business for this boner.
Incidentally, both of these examples come from the same comment, with one sentence immediately following the other.
For now, I am going to say that I may censor comments subject to my personal judgement. Here is how I would censor the previous sentence:
For a ______________ person, Shermer _________________ without critical analysis. Shermer should get __________.
In addition to the CWH’s civility pledge linked above, I have been participating in some other discussions regarding civility on the Internet.