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When to Use Swear Words in your Writing : Conversation question • Page 19 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
Hopelessly hopeful
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Hopelessly hopeful » Fri May 22, 2009 5:21 am

I think there's a big difference between using swear words in dialogue and using them in the narrative. Yes, it is very lazy writing to be using swear words when you are describing a scene, but not so when you have characters interacting with that scene-real people sometimes swear. Some swear more often than others, but even the most decent little old lady will drop the f-bomb if she smashes her finger in the door or something similar.

It's all well and good to have your own moral compass and insist that you will never use a swear word in your writing, but if your characters happen to be in the military, etc. and not one swear word was uttered by them, you are not being true to your characters. Instead, you are trying to turn them into something you think they should be. If you want to be an honest writer whose world actually seems real to your readers, you need to accept the fact that if you've put your characters into a certain situation, they might just drop down a peg and utter the ever horrible f-bomb, etc.

However, that is only true in dialogue or a character's direct thought. When authors use swear words when constructing a scene, that is just absolutely lazy and in poor taste. Of course, even that rule doesn't apply to anything written in first person. But I personally feel that, whatever your preference, swear words should be limited in their use and only when your character really demands it.

Elvarryn
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Elvarryn » Fri May 22, 2009 7:45 am

IMHO swear words can add to your voice, if the perspecitve holder would speak this way. Some people think in foul language, I always try to keep that in mind. So, instead if "Es war heiß", I'd write "Es herrschte eine beschissene Hitze" (sorry, can't give examples in English, we didn't learn slang at school) if it fits my protagonist.
In my current story, my protag swears alot. He's in a dangerous mind-state with lots of mood swings. My second, female protag is even worse.

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Ghostwriter71
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Ghostwriter71 » Tue May 26, 2009 8:46 am

I don't think I can add too much more to this than what many have already written. In the case of my first novel, profanity was limited to only a few of the characters. One of which swore more liberally because he was filled with anger and malice toward an ex-wife who had taken almost everything from him. He drops the "F" bomb a bit here and there, not overly so but profanity had worked its way into his general vocabulary.

His son, who we see mostly as an adult, had been estranged from his father and did not fall to his influence. He'd become more civil and refined and really only swore when he experienced heightened negative emotions like anger or fear and only in the worst of that does he drop the "F" bomb.

In my second book now in progress, I have a few young adults who are members of a ghost hunting group. One of these teens is a borderline misfit with a well-meaning heart who just uses profanity in conversation with friends but when he is around certain authority figures, he speaks with a much more respectful tongue. There is also an older man in the story, a criminal, who swears once in awhile but neither of these characters drop the "F" bomb.

In the end, it all depends on how you mold your characters and the situations they find themselves, like everyone else here has stated.

Elvarryn
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Elvarryn » Sun May 31, 2009 3:24 am


SkulleeRoze
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby SkulleeRoze » Mon Jun 01, 2009 5:08 am

I agree with those that state if it's part of the Character. Some of my characters would never swear, may even concider words like "damn" and hell" to be curse words. And then there are others whom couldn't careless if their language offends. But I do believe the situation must also call for it. You can't have a character dropping the "f bomb" in every line of dialogue he has. However I do like to stay true to actual speach patterns I would hear on a daily basis, within reason of course. The curse words should neither impede, nor distract from the story.

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ironvic
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby ironvic » Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:07 pm

Listen to the world around you. The air is rife with expletives. I issue a few myself every day. If your writing isn't spiced carefully with the language of everyday life, it isn't real.

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ironvic
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby ironvic » Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:07 pm

Listen to the world around you. The air is rife with expletives. I issue a few myself every day. If your writing isn't spiced carefully with the language of everyday life, it isn't real.

Nagrom
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Nagrom » Mon Jun 08, 2009 2:12 am

It totally depends on the scene and/or character. If Bob's a dude with anger management issues - or he's just a pottymouth - then so be it. But there's no reason to use swear words out of dialogue, really. I honestly don't have any definite swear word "policies" though.

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nhope
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby nhope » Sun Jun 14, 2009 7:32 am

My rule: use only one once, as something said entirely out of one's character, and only if it adds power to the statement, otherwise, its use is pointless.

I don't feel foul language enhances verbal or written conversation. I feel it is used as filler for otherwise unimaginative conversation or story telling. Same as the word "um" as a pause, but that's another topic.


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Passionate1
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Passionate1 » Tue Jun 23, 2009 10:03 am

I think when using swear words, the writer should take several things into consideration. First, the character, is the character written to be a bad guy who curses alot or occassionally or is the character written to be a loud mouth who curses. Also, the setting of the story. Is it during a time period where no one cursed or at least in public, what were the bad (curse) words for that time period. I think its just important that the language fits the character and the setting of the story.

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