- Simply saying a bad word. Example: I have a ton of sh*t to get done this weekend. This is not offensive to me. It may not be becoming, but I casually swear regularly and don’t find it to be problematic.
- Aiming a bad word at somebody. Example: Hey man, f*ck you! This isn’t cool. It’s commonplace, and discouraging. It represents your emotions getting the best of you more than it represents someone else doing something wrong. Restrain yourself. Be more uplifting than that.**
- Taking the Lord’s name in vain. Example: GD it to hell. This is the worst. First of all, I don’t care if you don’t believe in God. Other people do, so be considerate of them.*** To a believer, this may sound really awful. Secondly, if you don’t believe in God, why would you name him, in your swears or otherwise? And finally, the literal defense: God’s job is damning, not yours. And I don’t think he takes prayers like that. If your aim is to offend God, then do it in private. You don’t need to offend others at the same time. That’s just unconscientious.
*(or swearing, or cursing, or expletives). I grew up in California, and this is what we called it. At college in Massachusetts, they used cursing, and said cussing is what their grandmas called it. My friend’s dad calls them counterfeit words in a bankrupt vocabulary. He was from California and lives in Massachusetts. Go figure.
**Grey area between 1 and 2: Cursing at no one in particular, but not casually/in control. This sometimes can take the form of cussing at yourself. Example: Sh*t, I’m late.
***You could extend this rule even to the first level of cussing, if you happen to be around people who don’t appreciate swearing of any kind. I had a lot of Church of Latter-Day Saints friends in high school, and did my best not to cuss around them.