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Letters in offensive words are often removed to make words less offensive, like f----ed, or n-gger. (Though this isn't just for offensive words—see G-d).

What is the best typographic punctuation for the dash? A standard -, or an en-dash (–), or an em-dash (or dashes) for multiple dashes (e.g. f——d)?

  • I usually see asterisks in place of letters rather than dashes as in "fk you", "sht" and "c*k sucker" Each asterisk substitutes a letter. – Mari-Lou A May 1 '14 at 15:16
  • The G-d format is common among religious Jews to avoid spelling out the name. I think Mari-Lou A is right on about * for swear words in general. – virmaior May 1 '14 at 15:20
  • I wouldn't suggest an em-dash, as that is usually used between words and surrounded by spaces, but I don't think there are any set rules for this. I would suggest using one replacement character for every replaced letter, as that makes it clearer what you would have written - had you written it fully. – frances May 1 '14 at 15:20
  • @Mari-LouA c***k sucker, one who sucks cloaks, chicks, crooks ... ? It is important to get the number of characters right to avoid confusion, Flank you. ;) ETA smiley. – Frank May 1 '14 at 15:56
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    @Frank yeah, yeah, I deliberately added an extra star to make my point :) – Mari-Lou A May 1 '14 at 16:31
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Usually, asterisks are used. A single asterisk replaces a single character. Censor everything after and including the first vowel.

f***

Or simply censor the first vowel.

f*ck

I personally prefer the former.


Alternatively, one could use grawlixes, or assorted special characters

f@#!

This is most often used in cartoons.


There is also, leet speak. This is most common on the internet. In this case, one finds a similar looking special character to a letter of an offensive word.

Shit
$#!+

Personally, I have never seen any form of hyphen or dash used.

  • At one time, the dash was in common use for this purpose. For instance, my copy of Tobias Smollett's Roderick Random (first published in 1748) is full of em dashes, e.g. d—d for damned. – Erik Kowal May 2 '14 at 11:10
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I have frequently seen an asterisk used, f**k or f***ed, and I've rarely, if ever seen any kind of dash. Someone else could possibly tell you how many asterisks are required. But to be very boring, it all depends on context. The n word is almost always offensive whether said or implied: it is the concept that is offensive not purely the word.

I have used various techniques to diminish the offensiveness of an offensive word, and one of the best, i.e. if you really think that your text must omit these words, is taken from "Blazing Saddles," i.e. "The sheriff is a," the train whistle drowned his final word.

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    You can't assert that some words are always offensive. It depends entirely on context. – user24964 May 1 '14 at 16:12

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