Not that we'd ever swear, we can't deny that there's been plenty to curse about in 2020 (with the year seeming, well, cursed). But if you have a penchant for the profane, a clever new font is here to keep you in check.
The Polite Type, developed by Finnish tech company TietoEVRY, can automatically blur swearing, while also correcting offensive phrases to milder rewordings. None of our top free fonts can do that – you can write whatever you like with them.
But The Polite Type is more than just a clever gimmick designed to stop you swearing. The initiative has been created to highlight cyberbullying among young people. "The words we choose shape our reality," The Polite Type's website reads. "This is an open-source font that rewrites hurtful words, replacing them with more inclusive ones. We want to create room for the important discussion on how we can make the online world a safer, more inclusive place for everyone."
Indeed, "you are ugly" becomes "you are not traditionally beautiful" while expletives such as ****, **** and our favourite, ******, are blurred completely. TietoEVRY claims that, while blurring is often used to hide something offensive, this is the first time it has been incorporated as a symbol in a font.
On a technical level, The Polite Type is seriously impressive. Not only does it incorporate the brand new blur symbol, but the OpenType (OTF) font can recognise and find a suitable replacement for several words and phrases in a library which works both online and offline, and which users are encouraged to contribute to. TietoEVRY even suggests that machine learning could be used to teach the font to understand and recognise broader and more complex contexts for the use of language.
As for the design of the typeface itself, TietoEVRY has created a pleasingly clean, sans-serif design, with enough subtle flourishes to set it apart. The company wanted to create a "positive and progressive feel", with ink traps adding a characterful look to certain characters (below).
If we have one complaint, we're not entirely sure how the font is intended to tackle cyberbullying in practice. We can't quite imagine perpetrators being happy to install the font themselves (no matter how politely they're asked). Also, the concept is surely an easy target for freedom of speech advocates, or those who simply love to throw the word "snowflake" around.
Still, it seems the design is intended more as a conversation-starter, with TietoEVRY saying it wants to "create room for the important discussion on how we can make the online world a safer, more inclusive place for everyone".
It'll be fascinating to watch the development of The Polite Type, and whether it achieves mainstream adoption or will remain an online gimmick for this strangest of years, 2020. You can download The Polite Type here, or if you're looking for more friendly typefaces, check out our best fun fonts. (What you type with them is up to you.)