How to Edit Bad Words in Audacity

Written by scott knickelbine
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How to Edit Bad Words in Audacity
Removing foul language from a sound file requires a waveform editor like Audacity. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

To remove or bleep obscenities from an audio file, you need a waveform editor, and Audacity is more than equal to the task. A waveform is a graphic representation of a sound file. Audacity lets you zoom in on the waveform close enough to distinguish individual words; from there it's a simple matter to select the objectionable word and either delete it or replace it with a beep of the appropriate length.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Open the sound file in Audacity. The waveform for the file appears horizontally across the editing window.

  2. 2

    Play the sound file by clicking on the "Play" button, which features a right-pointing green arrow. As the file plays, you'll see a cursor line with a green arrow above it moving from left to right across the waveform. When you hear the word you want to edit out, click the "Pause" button (the one with two vertical grey bars). The cursor line stops near the wave form for the objectionable word.

  3. 3

    Select the waveform on either side of the cursor line by clicking on the waveform on the left side of the line and dragging to the right side of the line. The section of the waveform containing the objectionable word is now highlighted.

  4. 4

    Zoom into the wave form by clicking the "Zoom In" icon, which is a magnifying glass with a plus sign in it in the top toolbar. Zoom in until the section of the waveform you've selected fills the editing window. Individual words now appear as waveform clusters, with relatively flat lines between the words.

  5. 5

    Click on the "Stop" button (the one with the square in the middle). Then click on the "Play" button again and watch where the line cursor is when you hear the word you want to edit out, then click "Stop" again. Select the waveform that represents the individual word. To delete the word, press the "Delete" key. To bleep it out, drop down the "Generate" menu and select "Tone." In the "Generate Tone" dialogue box, set the "Frequency" field to 440.00. Leave all the other settings at their defaults. Then click "Generate Tone." The objectionable word is now completely replaced by the tone.

Tips and warnings

  • Bleeping the obscenity is useful when you want the listener to know the speaker is swearing, but don't want listeners to hear the objectionable language. It's also handy when you need to preserve the length or rhythm of the sound clip, such as in a music file.
  • Don't forget to click the "Stop" button before attempting to make any revisions to the sound file. If it's on "Pause" rather than "Stop," none of the editing options in the menu will be available.

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