No Swearing please, we’re Developers

In our team, I noticed the way we were speaking & the words we were using sounded as if we were trying to influence others of our thoughts & ideas.

Sometimes this made me feel uncomfortable, especially when the recipient didn’t realise they were being influenced (or didn’t know what to do about it) & consequently their opinion was altered as a result of the language used, not merely the content.

(Parental Advisory – explicit content)


I pointed these words out (& the impact they were having) to the team & we opted to try & not use them – they became swear words which carried a fine if spoken – 5 strikes & you’re out (to buy the coffee round).

The list grew as people tried to avoid using the words, but this is what we had at last check:



“Have to”


“Will” (?)




“Trust me”


“Going forward”

(this was just one of my pet hates, not sure if should count as a swear word)

Examples of usage included:

“It’s just a one line code change”

“It’s only a 3 pointer”

(setting an estimation bias before the poker cards were played)

“All we need to do is…”

(worse still:  “all you need to do to test this quick change is…”)


“Will” was a tricky one for the team – it wasn’t always being used as a swear word, but there were some occasions the word used which made me feel uncomfortable so it made the list.

I observed how people reacted to these cuss-filled sentences – Testers would stop thinking about what they actually needed to test, Programmers were happy their code wasn’t being questioned too critically & Business stakeholders would be certain a feature had been developed, tested & ready for release to Production environment.

Generally, team members stopped asking questions & seemed comfortable deferring responsibility to the person(s) swearing at them.

Stand-ups & conversations became exciting & more worthwhile – people were comfortable questioning other peoples statements as it felt less like challenging their values & opinions.

The exercise was a valuable lesson in one aspect of the use of safety language by all team members & it turns out I was quite good at the game – I never had to buy a round of coffee 🙂