Using Profanity in Writing, Especially Juvenile Fiction


Some people believe using profanity in their writing makes it sound more realistic. While that may be, I don't believe it's necessary in order to create a sense of realism, which is all fiction is anyway.

In my novel "The Bridge Beckons" I don't show any of my characters use profanity, even when they are being beaten by a group of thugs, or by the thugs themselves, for that matter, and both happen in my novel. The antagonists (thugs) swear, but I never use the actual swear words. I just say, "Jeff swore," or something like that, which allows the reader to imagine the epithet.

I don't think it's necessary to show a person swearing in order to show his emotional state. That can be shown by what he's seeing, hearing, saying, but mostly feeling in his heart.

I was part of a critique group once that was supposed to be strictly for writers of young adult literature. A young boy (around 16 or 17) joined the group and proceeded to put the infamous "F" word in every other paragraph. When I told him publishers of YA material probably would not accept that kind of language, he became even more profane. I complained to the moderator, but she refused to do anything about it, so I quit rather than read any more of his filth.

I know I don't like to read those kinds of words when I’m enjoying a novel, and I think a lot of readers would prefer not to be subjected to them either, if the truth were known.

About Paul West

Paul West is a freelance writer and novelist. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paul claims to be a "Prune Picker," though he now makes his home in Taylorsville, Utah.

You can follower him on Twitter: @PaulWWest

Published: Tuesday, August 02, 2005

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