Profanity And Writing!

There’s one important aspect that every writer will have to face once they begin the journey of writing a book. That is deciding what type of language they’re comfortable using in their story. By type I mean profanity. I’ve often heard some people say that they don’t mind when profanity is used in a story. “It brings a sense of realism to the story,” they say. I’ve also heard that it helps to make a scene more urgent, or it might help define a character’s personality better. In all cases, they’re probably right.

But what if you’re the type of writer who isn’t comfortable using profanity in your work? Does that make you any less of a writer? The answer to that question is no and you might have good reasons as to why you’re not including it in your work.

In my case, I avoid using profanity in my writing. The reason is simple for me. I’m not comfortable with it. If I’m going to put out a book, I don’t want it to be the type of book that some parents are concerned about because the language isn’t appropriate for preteens. Does that mean that I’m writing at a preteen level? Not at all, it just means I’ve made a conscience decision to avoid using harsh profanity based on a principle. I want the work to be accessible to adults, to young adults, down to preteens. To me it opens up a wider audience and also makes me more comfortable with the fact that I’m not forcing someone else to read through a lot of profanity in order to get through my book.

Once you’ve made that decision it makes your job as the writer a lot easier. For one, you’re not trying to force yourself to write something down that you’re not comfortable with. And two, the parameters of your story are already set to a degree. You already know from the start that you’ll use alternative words to express what might normally be expressed through profanity.

There’s also research out there that female readers don’t like profanity in books very much. I’m not saying that it bothers all female readers, but many of them may not appreciate a character with a potty mouth every time he or she appears in a scene. It could turn them off from your book and cause them to avoid your books in the future. So if your target is a female audience, that’s something to consider.

So profanity is something you’ll have to grapple with once you start writing your book. If you decide to put it in, there’ll be plenty of people who won’t mind. If you choose not to use it, that’s OK too. But in all cases, never over use profanity in your writing; that is unless you want you’re writing to resemble a locker room in the middle of a marine base. In that case, you might be able to get away with it.

Thanks for reading!
paclark paclark
2 Responses Sep 24, 2012

cool but some profanity is excusable but I dont think you were attacking using profanity in writing only making a point...
Have you read the old hemmingway books? with the censorship?
"I want you to go shove this firepoker up your profanity!"

LOL no, I've only read a couple of his books. But I do come across it some books.

I am also a writer. If my character is the kind of guy who swears, he swears in my books

Now I do not write preteen
I also write philosophy and I don't use profanity there, not because it is inappropriate, but it usually isn't the best word

All that said, when it comes to preteens allow me to tell you a story.

When my youngest daughter (the one who taught herself to read at the age of 2)
was in the second grade, I arrived at school one day. Her teacher (one of the most charming women I have ever known) was standing there, came up to me and said: "your daughter said the "F" word today.
"I don't know where she could have learned it."

I called my daughters over one in second the other fifth.

I said, while looking at the younger, "I heard you said the "F" word today. and your teacher wonders where you might have learned it."

My oldest true to form and right out there in the world said, " "F" word? Do you mean ****?"

She turn to the teacher and smiled and said, "She probably learned to say **** from Papa."

Then turned to her sister and said, "Sometimes you have to watch where you say certain words. There are a lot of stupid people in the world."

then looked at the teacher and said, "Not you. We think you are great and Papa thinks you are fabulous! We more mean those psycho-christians!"

My oldest graduated from Stanford and the youngest is at Berkeley. Both seem to be reasonably well adjusted, both tell me secrets, both have good friends and level heads on their shoulders.

Now a mathematical question: Is the word "Duck" three quarters pornographic?