Bad Words In Books

On DorothyL for the past few days there's been a brouhaha about swearing in books. It got so heated at one point a regular poster quit the list.

It was about whether or not profanity and guttural language should be in books or not.

Some said they absolutely would not read a book with such or use any of the words (and some were mentioned) when writing their own book.

Others said a book wouldn't be authentic without the language of the street.

I stayed out of the argument. I don't use profanity or gutter language in my books--most of the time. I might include an occasional "sh**" if it is the only word that fits the occasion. (It's the only bad word I say when I'm really upset.) However, I've read plenty of books with this kind of language and in most cases, I wasn't offended because I knew that's how those particular characters would speak.

When I'm writing though, I know my audience prefers the absence of swearing and crude language so I avoid it. Those who want it can think the missing words if they like.

By the same token in a lot of movies, the language could be cleaned up and the movie would be better.

If you have an opinion about the subject and would like to share, go ahead and leave a comment--just don't give me examples of the bad words you like to use.

Books by Marilyn


C. N. Nevets said…
I think be aware of your own style and your audience is a huge part of this conversation.

I don't mind the language when I'm reading Tom Clancy, but I think I would be jarred by seeing it in your books, Meredith.

In my own writing, bad language is a consideration of authenticity and voice. I use it when appropriate for the character. It is pretty consistent with my style and genre overall.
Hi, Nevets, you are absolutely right, a lot has to do with the voice of the author. I think my aversion to me using "bad words" goes way back to getting my mouth washed out with soap when I was a kid. Whatever I said, I don't remember, but the soap worked.

Maryann Miller said…
This is always an interesting topic, and people always have definite ideas about what they like or don'd like. What my characters say in no way reflects what I am comfortable saying. I had to learn how a hard-boiled cop would use certain words. And psychotic killers do not say "Gosh, golly, gee" when they are upset.
Again, it comes down to what type of book you are writing, and for readers what type they are comfortable reading.
Hi, Maryann, that makes me think of an adult friend I had who always said, "Oh for the corn's sake" as an expletive.

Linda Leszczuk said…
I read and write crime drama so it's pretty hard to avoid bad language. Having a local gang member say "gee whiz" would totally pull the reader out of the story. But I try to keep the line between swearing because it fits the diaglog and swearing just for impact. A good writer should be able to come up with something other than a standard four letter word to make a point.
Anne K. Albert said…
Comedian Red Skelton said writing "clean" is a lot harder than swearing and going for the shock value.

Whether or not that's true, I write what I love to read - no swear words!
Linda and Anne, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments. I know this is a subject everyone has an opinion about and the opinions are certainly all different.


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