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Use of Profanity

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Mon Jun 01, 2015 1:19 am
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Rurouni says...

Whoa, I have to agree with everyone here.

As a teen in this, wonderful (sarcastic cough) world of being a teen, my friends cuss... Sometimes, a lot...

I actually find cussing can be necessary in a story, to give the right feeling of a character, but overused it just loses it's bite.

Like I have a character, we'll call her A, and she use to cuss like... Hm, maybe every other dialogue, if she was angry at someone. If she was drunk, her tongue would get loose, same if she was tired.

But my other character C, she's really strict on her language, and you know when she's angry, because she generally has a tight censor, but without her giving someone an even slight curse when she's angry, it doesn't convey her anger as much (sure she yells at people without cusses, but when she's, red hot angry, pft, her censor goes down).

I think it can take away from the text actually. There are just situations were an F-bomb is totally and utterly appropriate, and others were a lesser curse would do it's purpose. I think it honestly depends on the character and the setting.
If A were to be sitting around talking about this and that, she might throw a curse if she wanted to be snarky, or give a point.
C would only do that if it truly upsetted her, and I think overtime if you read a series of books when the narrator(s) only curse when they are truly upset, then you know, "Uh oh, someone tipped the iceberg..."

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Tue Sep 08, 2015 4:02 pm
Ronald559 says...

Use of profanity is tricky. I couldn't say never use it unless it was dialogue. But the other day I read a piece from a good author, and she said. "The mailman picked up her shit." I didn't think much of it. How much strength do you give the word? Can you just throw it in there, and it becomes another word? If you can then you may, if it feels honest.

If it's the only word you want to say, then write it. If you're thinking about writing curse words for the sake of making it more realistic. I'd say use it sparingly. It does get a little tiresome in dialogue. My personal opinion. Just don't give it the full weight, no single word should have so much responsibility.

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Tue Sep 08, 2015 5:31 pm
Songmorning says...

I only use profanity in my writing to express particularly strong anger in my characters--almost always in their dialogue. It's either that, or I take the word seriously at its meaning: When the religious Christopher says, "damn you, Sakiv," Sakiv, who's an atheist, observes that Christopher perhaps really does want him to go to Hell. Christopher is shocked, but the scene shows how, in my world's culture, words, and especially curses, are taken seriously.

Of course, you also have to think of your target audience. Some of my stories are intended as junior fiction and contain no swearing whatsoever. The ones targeted at an older audience contain swearing as I described above. I've never used the F-bomb and never intend to, unless I come to a point in the story in which the context is so heavy that no other word would do. I haven't used "shit" yet either, but words like that wouldn't even show up in the world most of my stories take place in. It just doesn't have that kind of culture. If I did use "shit", it would be in a modern realistic setting.

But "shit" is silly, not heavy. It doesn't refer to a place of eternal destruction. It doesn't refer to rape (like the F-bomb). It's not even calling someone a dog. It just means "poop".
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Wed Sep 23, 2015 4:02 pm
Rin321 says...

I think that it should be used only if really necessary to push a certain tone or it can describe how a character thinks or acts. I do not support stories that have a ton for NO reason at all.
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Mon Dec 21, 2015 4:20 am
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SunsetTree says...

It's been a couple months sinxe there were any posts here, but I wanted to bring it back up because I find it an interesting subject in general. I don't curse in real life, but I do use curse words in writing from time to time. The reason is that they contain a certain power that other words don't carry. They add a unique level of characterization that other words cannot, and create an eyecatching dramatic effect when used sparingluy. If I am 25 chapters in a stort, and someone uses an F bomb, thats going to catch my eye. Thats going to tell me that things are getting heavy.

Cursing can be used to portray a more realistic story, but I dont think its necessary. The reality is swearing is everywhere in all ages, but I do not find myself losing immersion if characters arent cursing left and right. There are thousands of books, shows, movies, etc that create realistic, immersive, engaging dialogue without much cursing. The West Wing is a good example of this, if anyone has seen it. Cursing is very rare, and yet the dialogue is engaging, realistic and immersive. Thats just one television show, there are many other examples I am too tired to think,of right now. Breaking Bad uses the b word and s word regularly, but they only save the F word for a poignant dramatic effect, despite it being thrown around everywhere in real life.

That all has to do with dialogue, in a third person narration, I believe swearing should never be used.

In short, do I curse in real life, no. Do I care hearing or reading it, no not really. Do,I use it in writing, yeah. I think swearing is a powerful tool in writing that every writer should choose to use how they feel needed, whether adding drama, humor or more realistic dialogue. I prefer to save it for when I want a big impact, but thats just me.

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Mon Jan 18, 2016 6:29 am
SunsetTree says...

i really hate being the last post here, please someone reply.

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Mon Jan 18, 2016 6:46 am
Poopsie says...

freak that shizzle broheme
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Mon Jan 18, 2016 1:22 pm
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Lightsong says...

Cursing - well, it's a tool. A difficult one. Someone cursing has already spoken volume of his character, and that's all what it serves as. A device to show us one's character; nothing more, nothing less.

Some can say the involvement of curses makes a piece more realistic as we hear people curse in our everyday life, but making a piece completely realistic is boring. There'd exaggerations we resort to to make it more interesting. Cursing doesn't do that. Profanity has an effect not major enough in a piece.

Without or with profanity, the piece can still stand strong. The use of profanity should be kept minor or it'd be resulted like Rowling's Cuckoo's Calling, where the protagonist curses for the sake of it.
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Fri Jan 22, 2016 6:27 pm
wakarimasen says...

Using profanity in writing (and speaking) is one of many effective ways at expressing negative emotions. One of many ways. It really annoys me when authors (or speakers) feel the need to make every other word an expletive. Even in moderation, though, I don't feel it's truly necessary.

I've come to believe that sometimes, the occasional "d*mn it" in written dialogue is like that extra pinch of cayenne pepper that makes a cooked dish taste amazing. People aren't always super-polite in real life, so characters who aren't always super-polite seem more real.

But I feel this depends on the intended audience - a little part of me dies inside every time I see vulgarities/profanities used in kids' books. I see this more and more as the years go by. As an older reader who enjoys reading middle-grade fiction (because that's a genre I enjoy writing in), the occasional "cuss word" doesn't faze me, but all the same, it bothers me to think that actual ten-year-olds are reading this stuff, possibly for the first time.

How is it that kids in school are sometimes assigned books with vulgar words that could get them punished by the same school if they said them on their own? Impressionable young children are naturally compelled to imitate what is going on around them, so we really have to be careful what they are exposed to.

Kids should definitely be made aware of the evils of this world, so they don't end up going into perverts' cars or hanging with unsavory crowds, but I don't think making them accustomed to hearing and seeing profanity (or other "bad" things), is the best way to help them. They're more likely to use such language themselves than avoid it.

It should be possible to write a realistic story - for any age range - with dignified content throughout, without making it preachy. Anyone up to the challenge?

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Fri Jan 22, 2016 9:39 pm
7whitewolf7 says...

One of my favorite uses for profanity is as an expletive. "Oh da**, I dropped the plate".... You can go to far with it, "Oh da**, I dropped the f****** plate"
However I feel using them to describe people is just being lazy, you can come up with much more interesting insults for your antagonists to use if you don't rely on cursing to get the message through. Using the truth to a negative effect is normally the most psychologically disturbing if your antagonist is that sort.
Also sometimes no words at all are better.... if someone is trying to kill you, perhaps rather than dialogue you could cunningly describe their expressions.....
I know a lot of people don't like it when writers use things like "she cursed heavily" but I find that it engages my imagination more and somehow seems 'worse' then if they'd actually written any curse words.
Perhaps a combination a facial descriptions and hinted curses along with dialogue aimed at 'maiming' the protagonist would be good.
But that's mostly antagonist based, if it's the protagonist I would mainly use it as a describing feature of their personality if it applied, otherwise it should be sparingly used so that it will increase the drama, or intensity of the moment whenever used.

I don't think anyone should ever make a point to use it though.... like it was said above even though it increases realism to some, that's not always what you want. :)

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Fri Jan 22, 2016 10:02 pm
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Love says...

How is D*mn a cuss word! XD Here it's just not that bad... like "he*l". No one cares if you say it!

It's worth adding that if the author is uncomfortable with cursing, they can invent curse words that aren't as offensive in real life ^^ Especially works for fantasy. "I swear, I'll go and kick that flaming goat in his photonic resonator!" "Nargles, my toaster's bleedin' broke!" "Are you the mudcrab who sold me that charge card in Fallout?!"

Lots of fun :D
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Sun Jan 24, 2016 11:42 am
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TriSARAHtops says...

I think Heather has touched on an intriguing point - what's seen as a swear word to some people (such as d*nm, which has been mentioned as an example a couple of times) is in no way offensive to others. I mean, part of it comes from what you're used to hearing around you, but I also suppose that there's a cultural kind of element in how offensive a word is deemed. I mean, when you think about it, it's weird enough that we have certain words that are deemed "bad", but also that depending on who you're talking to (not talking about informal/formal situations, more just individuals) said words could seriously offend them or not even make them blink.

Gah, tonight's looking like a ramble-y night. Sorry in advance because this is probably going to be word vomit at best. There might be something vaguely insightful in the midst of all the muck though, so hopefully it makes sense.

So I've seen a few posts that suggest that including swearing is one of those "only in extreme circumstances" kind of things. Which, for certain characters, is true. I think in some cases, you will have characters who won't swear until they are past a certain tipping point - they're angry, in pain, shocked, whatever. It's a personality thing, which I think is key. It's a human reaction, which is how some people react to difficult circumstances in the real world.

A quick note - I'm writing this as someone who writes predominately contemporary fiction. So my perspective on the topic and focuses/priorities in my writing where it concerns language and profanity might be a little different to someone who's writing in a fictional universe, say. There are plenty of similarities, sure, but I just wanted to mention this. For example, realism has been brought up a few times, about how you don't necessarily want your story to be an exact mirror of reality - but in my case, I want it to be a fairly accurate reflection.

Back to the point, while there are people in the world who only swear in extreme cases, for want of a better word, there are people who swear when they are far less uncomfortable. Maybe it's to express irritation, or for humour, or for emphasis. So if you've got a character who's that kind of person, it's fair enough for them to be swearing, even if the situation is pretty chilled out.

I agree to an extent that swearing should serve a purpose, in the sense that all language in a piece of writing should serve a purpose. It's as much a part of a character's voice as whether or not they use colloquial language. Every word a character uses is part of their development, so profanity's a part of that.

I'm not a fan of the idea that it's somehow "lesser" to include profanity in your writing, or that you're copping out by not using other word choices. It's not to say that swearing has to be a primary means of showing a character's emotional state, say, or that it should replace description or whatever. Both can exist. I've said it before in this topic and I'll say it again, people aren't perfectly eloquent when they speak in real life (at least most of us aren't...), and whilst it's important to polish out some of the "um"s and "ah"s and false starts and speech fillers that talking is made up of, it's important that your characters' dialogue feels authentic, like something a person might actually say. It's not always a case of the author not bothering to find better ways of expressing a sentiment, it's a reflection on the character's way of talking.

I'm not saying that swearing in writing is necessary 100% of the time. It's not. There are plenty of shows and books that I love and ring true to me that contain little to no swearing. But I guess as someone who is pretty indifferent towards swearing and rarely offended by bad language (unless it's being used as an insult or something), I'm a little more welcoming (is that the right word?) to the presence of swearing in writing.

In terms of my own writing, I don't set out to include swearing, it just kind of happens. Just like I don't set out to make my novels sound Australian, for example, but the way that people around me talk does creep into my writing. I don't actually swear all that much myself, but I have friends who don't hesitate to swear with aplomb, so it's something I'm fairly used to. So it just sort of finds its way into how some of my characters speak.

One last point, then I think I'm done. On the idea of overdoing expletives, as much as a lot of the idea comes down to personal taste (some people have a higher tolerance, I suppose would be the way to put it?) I've also found that it depends on the novel itself. I've read novels that contain the f-word, for example, throughout and barely noticed, and then there are other novels where even small amounts of swearing feel forced and unnatural, and so stand out. So I guess it's not always amount of swearing, but also how it gels with the text as a whole, I guess.

Yo, @7whitewolf7 would you be able to further explain what you mean by using profanity differently in terms of your antagonist and your protagonist? I'm a bit curious about what you mean.
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Mon Jan 25, 2016 6:18 am
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7whitewolf7 says...

Would your enemy take care to use nice language when they try to kill you, is kind of what I mean.
Antagonists can be made more real, as well as more dramatic by their use of swear words.
Protagonists can show character flaws in this way, maybe even growth.

Cuss words tell you things about the people who use them, and why. In writing I feel that can be taken advantage of to create a more dynamic character(s).

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Thu Jan 28, 2016 2:28 am
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CowLogic says...

Also, proportionality of certain language is influenced by the voice and lifestyle of a writer.

Meaning, each writer has their flow. And if their flow sounds more natural with rougher language, I'd say it's better they keep it in. For others, of course, such language will disrupt their flow, so, unless they're attempting intentional literary risk, a noble endeavor, they shouldn't compromise their style.
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Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:12 pm
FallWolf says...

Hmmmm... I am really against profanity, in stories or in real life. I see that sometimes other authors use swear words to show a character better, but in my writing I never actually use swear words. If entirely necessary, I'll use something like "rats" or "shoot", but I believe that profanity is not necessary to a good story. We as writers should be able to find much more sophisticated ways to make our story seem real than using swearwords, especially taking God's name in vain, which really just offends those of us out there who just for once want a really awesomely made story with no swearing =P

Anyways, this is just my view, based off of my beliefs.

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