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When to Use Swear Words in your Writing : Conversation question • Page 18 • 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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Holly624
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Holly624 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:00 am

I hate to be generational with this. I'm 27. If I read something with a ton of cursing, I'm never offended and I don't criticize the author as being unintelligent or lazy. I really don't even notice it. You know what offends me? Unnecessary sex. Like the smutty spam star from "The Gargoyle."

plblair
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby plblair » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:45 am

In my own writing, one of my main characters is a detective with the Corpus Christi (Texas) police force. I've known a few police officers in my time. They don't say things like "oh, darn" or "gosh darn it." But ... I want to avoid hugely offensive language, since some of my readers are as young as 10 or 11 (and I've got some in their 70s, too). So Kat Morales occasionally says (or thinks) "Damn" or "Hell," and which she gets really teed off, she "uses words she picked up from her father, a former Marine drill sergeant." Her partner, Tevis (an Elf), occasionally "mutters something in his own language," which Kat can recognize as Elvish swear words. I don't know if it's the best way to handle the situation where a good cuss word or two is expected, but it's my way. I respect, however, that different people feel differently, and as writers, our first goal should always be to remain true to ourselves and our own visions.

plblair
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby plblair » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:45 am

In my own writing, one of my main characters is a detective with the Corpus Christi (Texas) police force. I've known a few police officers in my time. They don't say things like "oh, darn" or "gosh darn it." But ... I want to avoid hugely offensive language, since some of my readers are as young as 10 or 11 (and I've got some in their 70s, too). So Kat Morales occasionally says (or thinks) "Damn" or "Hell," and which she gets really teed off, she "uses words she picked up from her father, a former Marine drill sergeant." Her partner, Tevis (an Elf), occasionally "mutters something in his own language," which Kat can recognize as Elvish swear words. I don't know if it's the best way to handle the situation where a good cuss word or two is expected, but it's my way. I respect, however, that different people feel differently, and as writers, our first goal should always be to remain true to ourselves and our own visions.

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FancyThat
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby FancyThat » Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:50 pm

I'm personally writing with the Young Adult market in mind. The problem is that this section ranges from ages 13 and up. So if I use a lot of foul language, even if I feel its part of a character's makeup, I run the risk of angering quite a few people. On the other hand, underminding the makeup of a character is practically the same as killing them. You can make them uninteresting or robotic. They just don't seem right.
I'm trying to keep my audience in mind while also thinking about how these people would react if the story were real. I imagine the F-bomb isn't something I'll use, at least not willie-nillie. Other words will be there to punctuate frustration, anger, or another extreme emotion when needed, but hopefully wont be viewed as overused. :)

Ranger Jack
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Ranger Jack » Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:00 pm


Ranger Jack
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Ranger Jack » Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:00 pm


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kjones
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby kjones » Mon Mar 30, 2009 6:40 pm

This topic came up at the right time for me. I am writing a novel with characters who swear a lot. Just like me, and my friends, and my family. We are all intelligent beings, but we all swear excessively. This tends to reflect in my work. I am trying to decide how to write these characters that are modeled off of the people that I know without 'dumbing down' my writing.

I agree that if it is in character, it should flow like it would in life. But trying to strike a balance between realism and excess is hard.

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kjones
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby kjones » Mon Mar 30, 2009 6:40 pm

This topic came up at the right time for me. I am writing a novel with characters who swear a lot. Just like me, and my friends, and my family. We are all intelligent beings, but we all swear excessively. This tends to reflect in my work. I am trying to decide how to write these characters that are modeled off of the people that I know without 'dumbing down' my writing.

I agree that if it is in character, it should flow like it would in life. But trying to strike a balance between realism and excess is hard.

craigtheairplaneman1
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RE: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby craigtheairplaneman1 » Sat May 02, 2009 4:15 pm

Hi Brian:

Although I have seen and heard it all, my own style is to never have or ever use the F word and similar.

It has nothing to do with being offended, to each their own. It stems from a phenomenal conversation I heard between a journalism teacher and a student in high school. The teacher was well liked because he (excluding being older) could have been one of the kids. He dressed in jeans, loved rock and roll, sports, and being up to date on the pulse of the earth.

When he was asked about using the F word he believed it was a lazy solution for the writer. He gave examples of how you can achieve power/passion/credibility if you are 15, 38, or 70 without ever cursing.

As I got older and started writing, working in radio, and eventually releasing books, it became incredibly clear that I could make a sentence jump off the page and not have to use the typical terms to describe characters or events.

Thanks for hearing me out and enjoy Sunday!

Elvarryn
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Re: When to Use Swear Words in your Writing

Postby Elvarryn » Mon May 18, 2009 3:06 pm

My characters swear. Ofcourse they do, they're fricken humans. When I'm hurt by something, a "poop unicorns and rainbows" escapes me, too.
The language has to fit my characters. My antagonist would never use foul language, my protags curse quite alot.

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