Dealing with a "well respected poster" is usually easy, a personal email should induce him/her to edit the word out of the message.
My own view is that if they are making an attempt to avoid the censor they are aknowledging the intensity of the word they have used - and wanted to use an intense word.
With no censorship at all, including this form of self-censorship, yes, you can damage the reputation of your forum. When people are self-censoring they are making a statement, that the word is intense, they know it's intense but they used it anyway.
They are apologising for the word even as they use it. Throttling free expression does not make for a good forum, I would say let it go.
I think context is important, too. Calling a mod or another member a b**** is a serious issue that would require editing, while saying, "This problem is a b****, I ended up reformatting my hard drive twice" probably wouldn't get most adults too excited.
I'm a firm believer in NOT editing unless there is likelihood that young people will have regular access to your fora. At this point, I might simply add the versions of the word with the *s where they usually appear: b***h, b**ch, etc. and let it go at that.
A censor filter is almost a necessity where you have a lot of guest posting or here-today-gone-tomorrow registrants. For long-time members, less oversight is probably better....
Hm... reading your posts makes me think I'm a tad too strict! ;)
I haven't edited the post nor have I contacted the poster. I did add that formatting to the filter for several common words. I'll leave it at that and see what comes up.
The word wasn't directed at anyone - that would be a clear violation of my TOS and my reaction would be equally clear. So, cooler heads prevail. Thanks.
I've found that determined posters can always bypass swear filters - they'll add spaces, dots, asterisks... you can't anticipate every possible combination. Ultimately, you have to make it clear what isn't acceptable, and take away posting privileges for incorrigable offenders.
Swear filters work best for newbies who are used to expressing themselves in graphic terms on other forums; most will get the point when they see that their post has been auto-edited.
All of my posters (so far) are good folks and I think they'll get the hint when they see what happens to their use of the word. It's an experiment but one I'm willing to take.