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Harvey Mackay
Harvey Mackay
If there was ever a question about the character of Generation Z, those born after 1990, I am pleased to report that there are some who act more like adults than those of us who are way past our 21st birthdays.

A budding superstar of this age group is McKay Hatch, a teenager who is the force behind getting a Cuss Free Week declared annually in California during the first week in March. (I already like him no matter how he spells his name!)

He has a following of more than 20,000 members from all over the world in his No-Cussing Club. There are club chapters in all 50 states. You may have seen him on the news — he's been on national broadcasts on CNN, FOX News, ABC, NBC and CBS.

McKay's cause is inspiring, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He is a charming young fellow with a very serious message: “Our members take the ‘No Cussing Challenge,' which is a commitment to themselves to use better language. This commitment not only improves their lives but also the world around them. Through our motto, ‘Leave People Better Than You Found Them,' our members are also looking for opportunities everyday to help people and lift them up through their words and actions.”

Did I mention that he was just 14 years old when he started his organization in 2007?

McKay's message makes sense not only for kids but perhaps even more so for adults who aspire to be successful in business and in life. Find his website

There are more than 250,000 words in the English language. Fewer than a dozen are those dirty words that once got your mouth washed out with soap. Nowadays, that language is heard routinely in conversation, movies, even in the hallowed halls of Congress. Do those words really get the message across any better?

I'll confess — I swear sometimes, and I'm not proud of it. The real hazard of using bad language around your pals is that it becomes a habit. At some point, a bad word or two will slip out at a most inopportune time — during a negotiation, at a social gathering, or over a microphone you didn't realize was turned on. Embarrassment becomes the least of your worries then.

Let me tell you, if I am interviewing a prospective employee and an obscenity enters the conversation, the interview is over. I can't trust that person to go out and represent our company. I had a complaint from a customer once that the salesperson was swearing during a presentation. When I confronted our employee, he didn't even realize he had used the words. He apologized to the customer, and we handed the very lucrative account to another rep.

The words you use say a lot about you. Bigger words are not necessarily better than smaller words, but they are better than dirty words. Beef up your vocabulary so that you have options when you speak. Try these strategies to improve your language:
• Read a variety of materials. Read trade publications, newspapers, magazines, classic books, great speeches, websites or anything that stimulates your brain without contaminating it.
• Use the dictionary. You don't need the multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary at your fingertips. Your laptop has a dictionary, your smartphone has a dictionary app, and Webster's has pocket-sized editions that have plenty of serviceable words in them. Look up words you don't know so that you can use them intelligently in conversation or writing.
• Practice saying new words out loud. It's not as silly as it sounds. If you want to get in the habit of using the perfect word for the occasion, you must be comfortable saying it. Don't be a showoff, using big words just for effect. On the other hand, there's no crime in demonstrating your competence.
• Play word games. A crossword puzzle or a game of Scrabble can boost your vocabulary without feeling like hard work. And swear words are off-limits in both, so you have to find acceptable alternatives.
McKay Hatch has a head start on success. He has learned, at a very young age, that offending others has consequences that extend far beyond making you look ignorant. We would all benefit from his advice: to leave people better than you found them. A real language superstar doesn't need to have his language replaced with these stars (****) and punctuation symbols (%&#!).

Mackay's Moral: What you say is what you are.