Strong Language


In this article

  1. Editorial Guidelines Issues
  2. Summary of Main Points

Last updated: October 2010


Editorial Guidelines Issues

This guidance note should be considered in conjunction with the following Editorial Guidelines:

  • Harm and Offence

See Editorial Guidelines Section 5 Harm and Offence: Introduction, Audience Expectations, Content Information and Language


  • Re-use and Reversioning

See Editorial Guidelines Section 13 Re-use and Reversioning: Harm and Offence Issues


Summary of Main Points

  • Language is fluid, with new words and phrases regularly entering the public vocabulary. The power of established terms to offend may change over time The BBC does not ban words or phrases. The editorial justification of any language will depend on a series of considerations.


  • Context is key to the acceptability of language. Content makers should consider what was said, where the language was used, why it was used, who said it and to whom, the tone and intent and the amount of strong language used.


  • We must also consider audience expectations of strong language: what do audiences expect from a certain channel, time slot or particular personality? In general terms, television viewers are less tolerant of strong language on BBC1 as it appeals to a broader audience than other channels


  • Slang, patois and regional words and phrases should be used carefully as the meaning or the degree of potential offence may differ according to different audiences.


  • Care should be taken with classic content. In general such material should not be reformatted but, depending on the context in which it is re-used, a decision may have to be taken to re-version language that is out of step with popular sensibilities.


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