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When to Use Swear Words in your Writing : Conversation question • Page 20 • 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.
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Skreth
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Skreth » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:56 am

My opinion is this: Use them sparingly, if at all. I recently wrote a short piece in which I included a swear word to summarize the character's anger in one word. I don't generally add swearing unless it colours the scene or displays a certain aspect of my character that I want shown. I generally do not enjoy reading material that contains a vast amount of foul language. There are better ways of describing things than washing out the English language with such words.

Eirbear
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Eirbear » Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 am

I don't think I've ever used swear words in narrative, unless it's first person. If it's first person, then that is the voice of the character, and if my character just has the personality that causes her/him to drop in a few explicatives, then so be it. The novel I'm working on right now...my main character doesn't swear so much, especially not now at the point I am in the story. However, one of her younger sisters has absolutely no filter and pretty much says whatever pops into her head, which usually means that she swears a little. I think it all has to do with the characters' personalities. You have to be true to your characters, otherwise it's two dimensional and maybe not as believable.

Eirbear
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Eirbear » Fri Jun 26, 2009 9:42 am

I don't think I've ever used swear words in narrative, unless it's first person. If it's first person, then that is the voice of the character, and if my character just has the personality that causes her/him to drop in a few explicatives, then so be it. The novel I'm working on right now...my main character doesn't swear so much, especially not now at the point I am in the story. However, one of her younger sisters has absolutely no filter and pretty much says whatever pops into her head, which usually means that she swears a little. I think it all has to do with the characters' personalities. You have to be true to your characters, otherwise it's two dimensional and maybe not as believable.

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Eyes_86
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Eyes_86 » Thu Jul 02, 2009 6:51 am

     I think just about everyone will agree that it has to do with your
characters and how it relates to who they are as well as the situations
they're in.  Personally, my good guys utter the occasional "curse" word
in response to tense situations.  However, I've never thought that
swear words would make or break a story because ultimately I think a
person can communicate an emotional response (whatever it may be)
just as effectively without swearing. 

     There's my two cents  -

    Eyes


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Artambrosia
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Artambrosia » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:19 pm

I agree. I depends entirely on the character and the situation they are in. Some characters are going to be more prone to swearing than others. For some it would seem natural, while for others forced. You have to be true to your character. Very few of my characters swear, but when they do, it's usually in the type of situation you would expect to illicit more "colorful" language.

DBergendorf
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby DBergendorf » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:35 am

Okay, you're talking about dialogue. People cuss. Swearing has become ubiquitous. I would never utter the words "mother-f****er," but I sure know a lot of people who do. If one of my characters is a pony-tailed construction worker, he will definitely say "M-F" once in a while.
But as for spicing up narrative with profanity, doesn't it all depend? Tom Wolfe does it, and it's hard to argue with his success, both commercially and critically.

Fleurdelis
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Fleurdelis » Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:13 am


LilliesCarol
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby LilliesCarol » Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:55 am

I can't help but smile when I reads stuff like that. Here in Germany, we don't use "f*ck" so much as a swear word, it lacks the association to negativity that it seems to have for Americans. Our foul language contains much more of discriptions for faeces. Instead of saying "You're a f*cking liar", we'd say "You're a poop unicorns and rainbows liar" (bah, hard to translate that kinda stuff).

That must be a trait long-standing in Germany and with German speaking people.  I had to laugh at Fluerdilis' story about reading Catch 22 in class.  Coming from a long line of German descent and growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (predominantly German emigrants until 1940) I must agree that they use the word "sheis" a great deal.  I have written a book, which I am turning into a novel, about my grandmother (circa 1900 - 1945) in which her favorite saying was: Dunna Vetta Nach Mal, which I can still see her pound the table and spout those words.  However, when she was really mad, you're right, du bidst ein dumanasel was her favorite.   Fanetically  spelled.  Everyone one in my family spoke and wrote German, but when they spoke to me it was in English.  During WWI 1914 1918 it was forbidden to teach German in school, so in keeping with that rule my mother and grandmother never taught me German.  However, by association, I knew 'damn' well what they meant. 

As for cussing in things I write.  Yes, it depends greatly on the character and I will use profanity/cussing if needed.

Lillies


MonikaM
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby MonikaM » Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:57 pm

Hi,

I do use swear words. but only when i have to express emotions like anger, frustration, surprise, disgust, and so on.

MonikaM

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