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All Things Writing > Swearing

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message 1: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
Swearing and vulgar words in books, yay or ney?

What about in the actually writing and not in dialogue? Does it strike you as immature or realistic?

I'd like to know :3


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Depends on the genre of the book. When not in dialogue, I don't think it's needed unless you write a revolutionary article or something. But in a novel, it tends to put me off. It doesn't shock me in dialogue as long as it brings something to the character, and is not only there for the sake of "haha, I'm gonna make my character sound cool".


message 3: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Michelle | 450 comments Mod
Yay! :D As far as it being in the exposition, I think it depends on the pov its coming from and if its true to that characters nature to curse. As long as it is then its fine. If it's ooc for the char and theres a cure word in the narration it seems a little weird or out of nowhere.


message 4: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Moore (kevmoorewrites) | 63 comments I think swearing can add to specific characters. Sometimes writers have everyone cursing up a storm, which is unrealistic and unnecessary in my opinion. I had my main character, Wil Driscoll, have a little bit of a potty mouth while his sidekick, Albert, (well, technically they're partners working together 50/50 but let's call it what it is) is much more respectful. But Wil also smokes and drinks while Al is a teetotaler.


message 5: by Dionne (new)

Dionne | 68 comments I would keep swearing to the barest min. Too much puts a reader off. For myself, if I do use swearing it's more in the nature of it being in dialogue like when a character stubs their toe or something.


message 6: by Emma (new)

Emma Lindhagen (emmalindhagen) I think it depends on the genre and, perhaps even more, the style of writing. I personally don't mind profanity in dialogue unless it's very overused. In non-dialogue I think I'd find it... odd. Though it would also depend on how the story was written. A 3rd person omniscient narrator swearing would be more off-putting to me than if the story was told from a POV of a character in the story who happened to swear a lot, for example.


message 7: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Strong (samanthalstrong) | 206 comments Depends on the genre and age group. In Guarding Angel, I had one of the demon characters drop the f-bomb in dialogue and my editor made me take it out. I see her point--it didn't really go with the voice of the book as a whole. It was almost like it was only in there for shock value (which it kinda was, it was a demon)… but in an author intrusive way.

I have a dark UF I'm going to revise after NaNo. One of the POV MC's swears in dialogue AND narrative. Then another, a priest, definitely does not, and he has his own distinct voice. I think if it seems organic to the book and isn't just "oh look it meeee, I can sweaaaar," it works.


message 8: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) Swearing is and always has been part of any language and a writer should use it to be realistic,build characters or just because he/she fucking well wants to. In art artificial restrictions stifle creativity.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

@Anthony, I have to disagree. I think it also depends on the writer's personality. I don't think it would be an "artificial restriction" for me to avoid swearing in my writing as I'm not someone who swears a lot in everyday life.
And I believe one can build good characters without necessarily making them rude. Just think about all the good characters in traditionally published novels, where most of the time swearing is censored.
More than swearing, I think what makes dialogue realistic is the accent of the characters and the way they speak. Using expressions like "I dunno" instead of "I don't know" and stuff like that. But then, I mostly write heroic fantasy and it's probably not the most realistic genre haha :3


message 10: by H.R. (new)

H.R. Moore | 1 comments I think mild swear words are generally fine so long as they're appropriate for the character. I used a strong swear word in an early version of Legacy of the Mind and had feedback from one of my pre-publication readers that it was very arresting for the reader, pulling her out of the fantasy world I'd created to something more mundane and every day. On reflection, I agreed with her, it was just a bit much and I've stayed clear of strong swear words in my writing since then.


message 11: by Shannon (last edited Jul 27, 2014 02:53PM) (new)

Shannon Pemrick I'm rarely put off by swearing. It has to be in the right genre but most of the time, as long as it's right for the character being portrayed I'm fine. The only time I'm okay with it in narrative though is if it's in first person. any other narrative feel weird.

Vsauce (a youtube face) did a great video on the evolution of swearing and really got me thinking about how we think about these kinds of things.


message 12: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I love Vsauce. That episode had me scribbling.


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael Pearce (michaeltinkerpearce) | 91 comments Our first book was not YA as such, but was intended to not exclude the YA audience. Instead of swearing we'd right 'He swore and...' This seemed appropriate to the genre and the audience. In our second novel it was a different story (so to speak.) These were mostly military people in the midst of an apocalypse; it would have been unrealistic for them to NOT swear, at least occasionally. It all depends on the genre, the character and the audience. That being said I don't think it is ever appropriate in third-person narrative.


message 14: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Pemrick Usually his videos have my brain hurting by the end of them but that one was a great one for me!


message 15: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) We are grown up people we have to stop thinking of swearing as rude, rude! Shakespeare for instance is full of swearing, swearing is a way of making a point that's all and it is very very popular as in many people do it. So lets not be all prim and proper but of course it still needs to be appropriate to situation and character. My Death in the Australian Outback series is chockers with swearing, I even managed to slip in the C word but then this is Australia we don't tend to be all prim and proper.


message 16: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments I don't think its necessary to use actual swear words in a book. I think often times when this happens it shows an ignorance on the authors part by not being clever enough to show a character swearing without actually using the words. It's been said that the most intelligent people don't swear, because they've got a whole vocabulary full of words that making swearing look juvenile and ridiculous.


message 17: by Michael (last edited Jul 27, 2014 11:11PM) (new)

Michael Pearce (michaeltinkerpearce) | 91 comments Ron, you just insulted me and everyone else that maintains that profanity can have a place in literature. I am not stupid, I do not lack imagination and I have an excellent and extensive vocabulary.


message 18: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) My characters swear because real people do, lets not be soppy about this we live in the real world and words like Fuck, Milk, Mother Fucker, Cushion, Cunt, Food, Love, Handsome the list goes on and on are all part of a writers pallet, use them if it suites.It is certainly not ignorant in the least to use all the techniques (all the colors) that are available to you.


message 19: by Bisky (last edited Jul 28, 2014 12:46AM) (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
'the most intelligent people don't swear'

You certaintly haven't been around a British University campus xD

Oh and Anthony, rules dude. Your opinion is your own and I don't want you to start spouting swears, alright?


message 20: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) You want to censor me? Is this an open discussion between adults? We shouldn't swear if we don't want to but swearing is only as offensive as you let it be. The truth is people who swear are immune to the offence and people who do not swear actually use swearing in times of crisis and pain to mitigate the stress and the pain. Most people who stump their toe would say Dam or Fuck, I am not trying to be offensive but how can we have an open and frank discussion if we hide away from the thing we are supposed to be discussing? That's my opinion anyway.


message 21: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
Yeah, it's your opinion. You're entitled to it but I'd still like you to abide by the rules. And the topic isn't about the words themselves. It's about how you feel about seeing swears in books. I'm not censoring you, I'm just nodding to the fact that there is other people on this forum (and young adults) who I'd like to keep it to a minimum for. We can discuss them, but I don't want to open the floodgates by actually using them.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Anthony, you say you're not trying to be offensive, but you are. I feel insulted when you say that all adults constantly swear, which would mean that not swearing is actually immature... I'm also offended by your racism; I don't think that the simple fact of being Australian makes someone more able to understand swearing, or that it justifies their use of swears.

Don't bother answering me, I'll stop following this thread.


message 23: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Thorogood (tonythorogood) We just need to be open minded that's all.


message 24: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments I can't imagine swearing in the narration unless it was a first person book and it was really important to the moment somehow. Generally I don't have even 1st person narrators swear, because I always try to envision why they've set this down or who they're writing it to or for. In dialogue, I agree that it's unrealistic for every character to swear, or swear to the same degree or using the same type of swearing. It should be specific to character. One of my characters drops the F bomb in nearly every sentence. Some of my characters never swear at all.


message 25: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments What it comes down to is. Will I buy your book if there is a lot of swearing in it. The answer is a resounding no


message 26: by Brian (new)

Brian Basham (brianbasham) | 390 comments It depends on the character and the audience you are trying to reach. If you are looking to write a children's book then I wouldn't recommend cursing. If your book is rated R and you have a sailor who uses those words in place of 'the' and 'is' then you should. My novel has a character that curses quite often, but my main character doesn't. It's first person aimed at a ya audience, so the main character cuts out the majority of it as the story progresses.


message 27: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Strong (samanthalstrong) | 206 comments Woo, it did get hot in here.

I've had an interesting experience with swearing. I grew up ultra-religious, and actually had a physical reaction when I would hear swear words. I recall a study talked about in one of my college classes. This was 10 years ago, mind you, so I can't remember the details. But basically, swear words ping our brains a certain way and elicit an emotional reaction because of the way they're stored. So they aren't "just words." They are a special category of words that we do react to.

I am no longer religious so I don't feel that it's morally wrong to swear anymore, as I did before. I swear a lot around my husband and good friends. I don't even hear the f-bomb anymore when I'm in a relaxed setting. However, when I'm at work (in a corporate environment) or when my husband slips up in front of my parents (Lol), the word hits my brain like a tuning fork.

So I've been on both sides of the refuse-to-swear/swear-a-lot debate and I know how it affects both.

High vocabulary and intelligence are indeed correlated but that doesn't mean smart people don't swear. I've been in Mensa since high school. :-) Every person is different and has different reasons for how they speak. My swearing is probably overcompensation, and I'm OK with that.


message 28: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) I debated this when I wrote my book. One of the main MC's swears like, in her own words, a sailor with tourettes. This is then offset by a more prim and proper MC. He only curses once in the entire book.

Even though she drops the F bomb countless times I still replaced certain parts of dialogue with "she cursed/swore", instead of painting it every time.

None of my beta's mentioned the swearing, except for one and that was feminist centric, which gave me a lot of food for thought also.

It's definitely character centric. I'm not sure how genre driven it is. I write horror and dark fantasy, so yeah, a lot of the time the characters swear. Not always as much as this young lady mind. But I could easily, and plan to, write something in a more gothic horror tone and not use swearing, merely imply it.

I think more than genre tone is what needs to be considered.

I mean... What words are you going to remember more: a person dropping four letter expletives at you in line at the bank, or calling you a pustulent boil on humanities arm-pit?


message 29: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Moore (kevmoorewrites) | 63 comments I just wanted to add another dimension to this discussion. Has anyone published their stuff as audiobooks? I have not, but I intend to eventually. Anyway, I think swearing can be more noticeable in an audio format. Case in point: I'm listening to the last Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance with Dragons. There have been a few times on nice days when I've had the windows down that out of courtesy I've turned the radio way down when stopped at a stop light because of George RR Martin's swearing. There are some authors I don't even bother because I know odds are there is nothing that is going to raise eyebrows from the car next to me, but there are other authors who I have no idea what they're going to say next. As a writer, I want to be the former kind of author.


message 30: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) Kevin wrote: "I just wanted to add another dimension to this discussion. Has anyone published their stuff as audiobooks? I have not, but I intend to eventually. Anyway, I think swearing can be more noticeable in..."

Haha, surely people know and you can just shrug and say "Sorry. Game of thrones," and they will just nod and move on.

Too bad if the kiddies are in the back seat though, huh?

A very good point though. Don't audiobooks have any kind of disclaimer for that?


message 31: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Moore (kevmoorewrites) | 63 comments Jim wrote: "Kevin wrote: "I just wanted to add another dimension to this discussion. Has anyone published their stuff as audiobooks? I have not, but I intend to eventually. Anyway, I think swearing can be more..."

Haha! Good point. That is if they're in the GOT club.

I don't think I've ever seen a disclaimer like on a music CD. I fortunately haven't had to worry about the kids thing yet, but I've started thinking about it. When my little girl starts repeating everything she hears, it's probably a bad idea to have Stephen King playing in the car...


message 32: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) Kevin wrote: "it's probably a bad idea to have Stephen King playing in the car..."

Unless she starts going around everywhere saying "REDRUM! REDRUUUM!" haha.


message 33: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments Ron wrote: "What it comes down to is. Will I buy your book if there is a lot of swearing in it. The answer is a resounding no"

Everyone has their own standards of what they enjoy and what they don't, so I respect your stance. It's your purchase and you should be happy with it. I have one YA book so far in which I meticulously avoided swearing to make it family friendly and appeal to folks who feel the same as you. My other works include swearing for the other camp. Read and write what you enjoy, is the main thing IMO.


message 34: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments Kevin wrote: "I just wanted to add another dimension to this discussion. Has anyone published their stuff as audiobooks? I have not, but I intend to eventually. Anyway, I think swearing can be more noticeable in..."

You're probably right, this is a good point to bring up and if I ever record my books as audiobooks I'll have to consider it.


message 35: by Steven (new)

Steven McKay (stevenamckay) I have swearing in my novels. I generally prefer an f-bomb to some watered down alternative that sounds unrealistic. My debut novel is also an audiobook and it did sound funny at first to hear my fairly posh English narrator reading the swear words.
I've received low star ratings from readers that said they loved the story and characters but rated it low because the swearing offended them. That's hard to take but we have to write the way we want to, and for me, real characters swear.


message 36: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Barnes | 86 comments I really think it depends on the situation you are writing about. My first series had mild swearing, but not much. The one I'm writing now has more and they do drop the F-bomb, but then again they are trying to elicit a certain response from the person they are talking to. I'm character driven, and if my character swears in my head then I don't feel it's true if I don't on paper. If people don't like it that is their prerogative. There are times I think "play it safe and leave it out" but then again it's not true to the character if I do that and it ends up feeling wrong.


message 37: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments There is one more comment I'd like to make, especially to those seeking to publish a novel in the YA category who insist on swearing.
If you want published, and I'm talking really published here where someone else is footing the bill for the cover and the editing, and everything else that goes with it. You'd better accept that your "art" is only going to fly if there's a very good reason for it to be there.
I made sure that my novel was something I was proud to let my mother read, and guess what? My publisher loved it so much she sent me an acceptance letter. Two days later I was signing a contract. All without a single occurrence of "art"


message 38: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) Genre and market have to come into it, Ron, of course. But there must be a market for it. Isn't that why they created the NA category? As a grittier YA, for the older "kids"?

I for one know that 20 something years ago I was bored of what was age appropriate and was reading James Herbert, Clive Barker, John Wyndham, Greg Bear, Dean Koontz, to name a few, so there must be demand just as much as there is for other categories.


message 39: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments Well it's true that sex sells, and vulgar language goes right along with it. I'm not trying to stand on a soap box here. Everyone reads what they like. I read YA because it doesn't have that stuff. So my point is Yes there is a market for it, but that market is not YA


message 40: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) I'm not sure where sex came into it, sorry. Am I getting the NA category wrong? I read neither YA or NA.


message 41: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments no, I was just trying to make a point that often the two go together. Of, course that's not universal, but as I mentioned above, I don't want that in the books I read, so that's why I read YA


message 42: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) Ah ok. Fair enough.

So are you saying then that writers use swearing like sex? That it sells books?


message 43: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments Not in the YA genre. But yes in adult books. I can't seem to pick up an adult book that doesn't have some kind of lame sex scene and people f... this and f... that. it's more juvenile than most YA novels


message 44: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Moore (kevmoorewrites) | 63 comments Ron wrote: "Not in the YA genre. But yes in adult books. I can't seem to pick up an adult book that doesn't have some kind of lame sex scene and people f... this and f... that. it's more juvenile than most YA ..."

I just finished Dan Brown's Inferno and I don't recall any F-bombs or sex scenes. And I typically don't see them from the Clive Cussler books I often read either. There's a couple places you can start looking...


message 45: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) I don't agree that it's used to sell books, in the case of sex and/or swearing, but let's stay on topic with swearing.

I don't believe it's some marketing tactic. What author in their right mind would think to put in swearing to sell more books? The characters would not read authentic or true, which is precisely the point for including it in the first place-to keep your characters true, because people use those very words on a day to day basis and have done for a long time.

When was the last time someone recommended a book because of the swearing?

The only one book that even comes to mind for swearing, because of it's oddity, amusement factor and being spread by celebrity reading and whatnot, is the pseudo children's book for adults "Go the f..k to sleep".


message 46: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I think it's incredibly unfair to give a one star review just because you are offended by swears.

Not sure you have the best attitude there, Ron. I'm wondering just what you have read that has offended you so much.

Not I write YA yet but I don't understand where a couple of your comments are relevent to your argument. For example, my mother is proud of reading my work... and there are both swears and sex scenes in what I write.

(but I don't write fumblings because I -know- my dad is going to get his hands on it and thinking about him reading that is horrifying >__>)

Pretty sure there are some swear filled YA classics. But I haven't read too many and when I was an actual young adult I was too busy secretly raiding my aunts huge bookshelf filled for Fabio covered novels. Oh the cringe.


message 47: by Cem (new)

Cem Bilici (cembilici) Haha. I can't believe it's not butter.


message 48: by Deb (new)

Deb (soulhaven) | 103 comments Jim wrote: "Haha. I can't believe it's not butter."

*Like*


message 49: by Deb (new)

Deb (soulhaven) | 103 comments Personally, it depends on the characters. If it feels natural for them to swear in a certain situation, I let them swear. If it feels natural for them to explore bodies, then I let them explore. But, I haven't written a ton of books, yet, so I guess we'll see where this takes me. I have lost stars from reviews because my characters swear (although, apparently not for the violence - sexual or otherwise)...


message 50: by Deb (new)

Deb (soulhaven) | 103 comments Jim wrote: "I don't agree that it's used to sell books, in the case of sex and/or swearing, but let's stay on topic with swearing.

I don't believe it's some marketing tactic. What author in their right mind w..."


With you on this. Swearing is never a draw, as far as I can tell. It can potentially lose readers/sales, or it can go by with no offence (null effect), but I've yet to see a book gain sales because it contained swearing.


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