Goldman Sachs to traders: No more swearing

Policy spurred by profanity-laced e-mail revealed in hearings

Those of us who don't work there can still swear at Goldman Sachs, of course ... but those who are in the company's employ must clean up their language, at least when sending e-mail, instant messages and tweets.

From a story in The Wall Street Journal:

The New York company is telling employees that they will no longer be able to get away with profanity in electronic messages. That means all 34,000 traders, investment bankers and other Goldman employees must restrain themselves from using a vast vocabulary of oft-used dirty words on Wall Street, including the six-letter expletive that came back to haunt the company at a Senate hearing in April.

"[B]oy, that timberwo[l]f was one s- deal," Thomas Montag, who helped run Goldman's securities business, wrote in a June 2007 e-mail that was repeatedly referred to at the hearing.

Mr. Montag, who couldn't be reached for comment, wouldn't be allowed to send that e-mail under Goldman's sanitized communications policy, which is being enforced by screening software. Even swear words spelled with asterisks are out.

So how might you fare under such an edict?

I am unabashedly proud of my ability to swear when and where swearing is socially acceptable and refrain from doing so when and where it is frowned upon. I'm all business when corresponding with readers (even the real  ... um, unpleasant ones), but my exchanges with close friends and co-workers are rated R. Only once have I cursed in the presence of one of my children, and anyone who has driven in Boston will forgive me that lone transgression.

But that's self-reported anecdotal evidence; here is some hard backup data via Cursebird, a Web site profiled here last year that is devoted to chronicling the non-stop profanity on Twitter. Out of 3,579 tweets I have sent, according to Cursebird, only two contained a bad word, in both instances the relatively innocuous "bastard" (one lucky, one poor).

Oh, yes, I could work at Goldman Sachs, you bet your &@#.

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