Thursday, December 12, 2013

To swear or not to swear in books

The question was recently raised by a fellow author who asked people’s opinions on using swearing in stories. Here is my reply:

Swearing. Yeah. Well, I think for me it boils down to two things:

      Who is your intended audience?
      Are you personally comfortable with using the word?

In my five novels, I’ve used swear words, let me double check, ok yeah … never. At the same time, I don’t shy away from some pretty gritty stuff, especially in Wall of Faith.

I’ve had writers tell me that unless swear words are used, the story won’t feel real. Meaning that swearing is part of life and so it should be included in books. I counter the argument that there are a lot of things in real life which aren’t generally included, like going to the bathroom, yet how often are they included in books where they aren’t a significant part of the story?

I write for an audience that is LDS friendly, meaning I believe anyone can read and enjoy my books if they are LDS or not. I choose not to use swearing because I’ve found I can write compelling stories and characters without using those words.

When I refer to swearing, I mean the main ones that the general public consider a swear word. There are also words that are crass, but are considered swear words by some people. (Examples: piss, crap, suck.) In general, I shy away from the crass words as well.

Lastly, and I’ve mentioned this before in other posts, this topic was discussed at length in one of my Master’s classes. (I’m almost done with my MFA in Creative Writing.) The consensus of the students and the teacher is that swearing is generally to be used sparingly, if at all. Once or twice here and there is like a punch to the gut. Too many uses desensitizes people to the words. My teacher went as far as to call using swear words as “lazy writing.”

So, I personally don’t use swearing and I’ve had many more readers thank me than people complain about the lack of swearing in my stories.


  1. I love that you tackle the tough issues. Thanks for writing books that are intense, but clean!

  2. Great post! This is what I have always believed (and done in my seven novels), and I needed a shot in the arm to stick to it. Thanks!