When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby KeithMN » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:27 am

James and I see eye-to-eye on the subject.  I don't believe it's necessary and think it's a cop-out for good writing.  The markets I write for wouldn't go for it. 

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby j_joshi » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:34 am

It depends on your characters. I have a character in my book who actually can't swear. There's a point where she's trying to defend herself against slander and she actually can't say the word that been used to describe her. Then I have a character who has no problem with swearing and swearing regularly. It's an effective way of characterisation. It says a lot about their values and personal beliefs.

Even then swear words are more effective when used sparingly. Characters that swear give a much stronger effect when they occasionally swear rather than pepper their speech with vulgarities.

You have to use your personal judgement and go with what feels right.


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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Gunwise » Wed Oct 17, 2007 8:42 am

I agree that swear words should only be used when the character would use it and even then it should not be a word that I wouldn't use in public.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Kirby » Wed Oct 17, 2007 11:47 am

I write fantasy for YA and don't use swear words.  Something my mother said when I was very young still stands out in my mind.  Mom had heard me spelling out a cuss word to a neighbor girl.  In Mom's rulebook that was just as bad as cussing.  She went on to say, "An intelligent lady can think of better things to say to express herself other than a cuss word."  While a cuss word spills from my mouth occasionally, I still hear Mom's voice.  Again, it's my genre and I don't use them, nor do the books that I read.  When there is a cuss word, it jars me from the story.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Ultimate Cheapskate » Wed Oct 17, 2007 12:38 pm

Since I write "quirky nonfiction," mostly in first person narrative, my best work (IMO) is when I write just like I talk. And, to my mother's chagrin, that occasionally includes some ear-scorchers. That's reflective of the way I speak (not church-speak but not Chris Rock Unplugged, either), though where I get in more trouble is with innuendos, off-color references (including those that only I get), etc. In fact, I recently had a fellow author decline to blurb my upcoming book because of my "humor". Oh well, it's me, and I didn't get into writing to become someone I'm not. Just the opposite.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Arwen9 » Wed Oct 17, 2007 1:52 pm

probably not Rebecca then. sorry, :( haven't read it in a while, but I do know of most classics who do not use them. My beef is not the cursing as much as using it when I don't need to know "what" they said, just that they swore. (James Scott Bell's legal thrillers have had some pretty tough characters, but I have never that I know of read one of his with the actual curse word in it.


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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby LilliesCarol » Wed Oct 17, 2007 2:38 pm

Words are things that create feelings. We use them in our every day conversations and particularly when we write.  If someone you know uses foul langauge a great deal, it may be normal for him/her.  Personally, I don't like it.  However, if you do, that is where you are in your life's journey.  When writing, if my character is such that foul langauge would enhance portraying his personality, then by all means I use it. 

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Alhazred » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:53 pm

I swear constantly in daily life. I swear in my inner monlogue. That may make me a slightly more unsavory character than you'd like to encounter (although somehow surprisingly, I seem to get along with everyone that I work with, and/or meet, that has any remote sense of humor), but it doesn't make me any less realistic as a character. Nor does it render me less articulate. I'm contemptibly guilty of using far too many words, rather than too few, but swear words are something I covet, cuddle, and adore. They taste wonderful to me. Please don't misunderstand. In the course of my job, would I swear in front of the dignitaries, academics, or luminaries I'm so lucky to occasionally meet? F* no. Will I swear in my stories? Oh yes. Not all of them. In fact, some I write specifically without 'bad' language. It's okay - I can say nastier things with other words anyway. But do I feel for a second that using them, even liberally, is using them carelessly? Well...no...not if you're careful, and consider your audience.


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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby dgford » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:54 pm


You go mon!  "Stay who you are - right where you are."  And you can quote me.

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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby PaigeVonLiber » Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:22 am

Curse words are an everyday occurrence in today’s society and they have been around since language began. Granted they have gotten worse in form and frequency then in years gone by, but they are here worse nonetheless. They give shock value besides the typical “Look I’m using a dirty word here, can’t you see I mean business?”
It would be unreasonable not to use them here and there, depending of course on the era of your story, the normal curse words for that time period as well as the type of social status the character has. Those greater then I have said all this before.
I have written a poem on a certain word and have not let any one other then my spouse read it. He was taken aback and said, “That’s not your usual type of stuff.” My response was “Good, it works.” I want to share the piece because I think it’s pretty good… but then do I really? My point of this comment is to show what a common dilemma curse words can be, and I suppose in retrospect my fear of how society will take this particular piece has, at this time anyway, made me censor myself. Oh sure a pen name, but that would eventually track back to me too. Maybe I’ll just leave it up to my kids-most likely it won’t be such a big deal after I’m dead, at least not to me.


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