What the F*** did you Say?

I’d be interested to know what people think about this.

Swearing is a part of colloquial language, whether we think it’s appropriate or not. And whatever is true of spoken language will find some way into dialogue embedded in a narrative. I think that swearing is an important part of language, making the meaning of a threat heavier and causing insult and often shock when used in certain situations. All of this stuff is good for the writer.

The use of swear words can be effective to arrest the attention of the audience. Blue words tend to leap off the page. It can also create a shock, particularly if it is used in a social situation that prohibits “improper” language.

For dialogue, swearing is particular important. If you wish to directly quote obscenities rather than avoiding it with a “He cursed” or “She swore profusely”, you should not water down your dialogue. If it’s a rough, male character, he is more likely to say “bugger off” or “fuck off” than “oh, go away”. Similar he would curse saying “oh shit”, not “dash it” or “fiddlesticks”. Language causing less offence can be equally effective, especially if your characters use it often, such as “damn” and “blast”, which have the connotations of swearing attached rather than slapping you in the face. In contrast to this, gentry at a dinner with ladies would not use anything so blunt as that mentioned above, choosing more of a eupemism.

As with all “rules” of writing, there are ways of using a set “rule” against itself for a certain purpose. An upper class character or dame using excessively rough language is a source of comedy as well as an interesting contrast. I would normally suggest using swearing in narrative sparingly and in dialogue too. An exception to this rule is if you would like a really rough character who uses swearing consistently.

Your audience must always be considered when writing with the intention of using obscene language. Having said that, there was a “children’s” book (really for the parents) called “Go the Fuck to Sleep”, which shows me up quite well in terms of censoring your audience.

Tell me what you think, if you agree with what I said or if you think other things about it. And if you use swearing to a certain degree or try to abstain from it.

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2 Comments to “What the F*** did you Say?”

  1. Good post.
    I’ll admit that I struggle with including curse words. For some reason they seem fake to me even though the characters seem to be using them appropiately. Plus I swear regularly in my normal conversations so it’s not foreign to me :-)

  2. I will use swearing in stories, when called for, because I think it’s unrealistic not too. Most people wouldn’t go `oh darn it’ when they’re furious. Having said that, I’ve seen it overdone where it’s every other sentence and seems to have no purpse. As long as it has it’s reason and doesn’t overshadow the story, swearing neither offends or bother me.

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