I've noticed that symbols (i.e. #, $, %, !, *, etc.) are commonly used to filter profanity/foul language.

Just out of curiosity, is there a specific way to do this. I've noticed sometimes there isn't a specific number of symbols but normally the number of symbols correspond to the number of letters in the cuss word. E.g.:

Wow dude, you are such an &#%-hole!

So, with that all in mind:

  1. What symbols are acceptable for doing this?
  2. Are there patterns or specific methods for this? (Specific patterns for certain words)
  3. Other rules that may pertain to the situation.
  • “Cuss word” is an interesting construct itself.
    – tchrist
    Jan 12, 2013 at 3:33

2 Answers 2


Standard practice is to substitute asterisk when replacing just some letters (especially vowels, and not normally the first or last letter) in a swear-word (for example - "sh*t", or "c**t").

Any random combination of other "special" characters (including but not limited to &#%!@?) may be used to denote "some unspecified swear-word".

I think OP's specific example is at least "unusual" usage. I would normally expect either "You're such an &#%!@?!", or "You're such an a***hole".

Also note that particularly with longer words such as "bollocks" (which the markup language won't let me "clean up" here), the number of asterisks may not accurately reflect the number of letters substituted. So you don't need to wonder whether my a***hole was British or American!

  • 2
    Lol. I assume its the same nationality as the rest of you. ;-)
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 5, 2011 at 18:02
  • 1
    Sometimes symbols that are similar to the replaced letters are used, such as "@$$hole", but it may happen that there isn't a symbol that resembles the letter being replaced. Aug 5, 2011 at 18:08
  • 2
    The random !&?@#!#%&! thing is especially used in Comics, such as Donald Duck's. :)
    – Alenanno
    Aug 5, 2011 at 18:17
  • @Frustrated: The use of similar-looking characters is from "leet", a style of writing popularized by the Internet.
    – KeithS
    Aug 5, 2011 at 18:44
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    @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner: I think that "leet" style is mainly used by younger people on software-monitored "safe sites" to avoid alerting a human moderator. In other contexts, since the letters are clearly-recognisable to human eyes, why bother? Aug 5, 2011 at 18:50

These symbol sets are defined as a "grawlixes". For additional information, please refer to Wikipedia: The Lexicon of Comicana.

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