Tech & The Web

Could a ‘Polite Font’ Make People Less Rude?


What the world needs now is…a bit more kindness. Developers of a so-called ‘polite font’ claim their typeface can tone down the vitriol.

Could you be nicer if you used a certain typeface online? Well, I heard about a “polite font” that you might want to check out.

I find myself intrigued by the idea of The Polite Type. But I’m not necessarily sold on the idea.

Just a few weeks back, I complained that online manners seem to be disappearing. I received a reminder earlier this week that it’s not just online manners that are going the way of the dinosaur. In-person manners seem to be falling off the earth just as quickly.

But when it comes to typing an angry missive, the Polite Type might tone things down a little.

The idea is that it automatically replaces certain words and phrases. Sometimes, it uses softer variations. Once in a while, it produces a “blur” of the word.

Developers explain it as an open-source font that “rewrites hurtful words.” It replaces them with “more inclusive” alternatives. It’s an effort to “disarm cyberbullies and raise awareness about the issue,” the site states:

We want to create room for the important discussion on how we can make the online world a safer, more inclusive place for everyone.

I couldn’t resist trying it out.

Since one of the most offensive words these days, a word we hear more and more often, is the F-bomb, I decided to start with that one. The word, once typed, becomes an indiscernible digital blob.

Lifehacker took the experiment further to determine which “curse words” get obscured and which don’t.

But there’s more.

Lifehacker learned the typeface converts “I hate you” to “I disagree with you.” You’d have to call that softer language. But I don’t know that it’s entirely accurate. I don’t hate anyone; there are plenty with whom I disagree. If the two truly are synonyms, something’s a bit off.

I like the idea behind it.

Maybe using it would make people more cognizant of their own words.

But I think it’ll take that level of cognizance before people actually start rethinking their tone and manners. A typeface can only do so much.

People will only become polite again when they want to, not when a font changes their words for them.

Unfortunately, it seems these days too many people have no desire to make that change on their own.

Would you use a font like the Polite Type? Why or why not?

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.