Tag Archives: Swearing

&$*#! Swearing in Stories

Out in the real world, a lot of us swear.

Maybe it’s only in the context of our cars, or whenever our computer acts up. Maybe it’s a way we put emphasis on particularly stirring thoughts. We bleep those words when we say them on TV or on the radio, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t encounter those words daily, either coming from our own mouths or somebody else’s.

But should our character’s swear?

I could give you the whole writer’s spiel on how no words are inherently bad, only the connotation we assign to them. I could say that some people consider swearing in writing to be lazy, whereas others think it is a more natural portrayal of the world we actually live in.

Here’s my take for whatever it’s worth.

I think some words are charged with meaning, maybe not for everybody, but definitely for some. I think if you swear on the first page of your story, you’re likely to swear on most of the other pages, and readers pick up on this. I think some words that are not technically swears but feel that way can also make other people uncomfortable (like feminine hygiene products or the bag they came in).

I’m not say swearing is lazy writing, but I think you should be using it for more of a reason than just “this is how people really talk”. I tend to think sparingly is better than as punctuation, the latter removing a lot of the meaning and power from the word, whereas the former really grabs the reader’s attention at a critical moment. If it makes sense for your particular character, and you are making that choice deliberately, fine. But maybe only have that be one character in your story and not all of them.

As a writer you want to appeal to the widest possible audience, or at least be aware of what affect the choices you make will have on the size of your potential audience. I’m not advocating for anemic writing, something bloodless that offends no one. But you need to be making the choices of who you offend and who you build up deliberately, and not just out of hand.

But what the f— do I know? What do you guys think?


Filed under Writing