1. Inspired writer
    Offline

    Inspired writer New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    east midlands

    Use of bad language in dialogue

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Inspired writer, Apr 11, 2012.

    I'm writing a short story set in a council estate. Would you say it's acceptable to use swearing in order to make it realistic? Or do you feel readers wouldn't appreciate it? If not, then what ways would you suggest in getting around it?

    Register to remove this ad

  2. art
    Offline

    art Senior Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2010
    Messages:
    1,267
    Likes Received:
    114
    Your readers will probably appreciate authenticity rather more than contrived methods to avoid it. Swear.
  3. The Tourist
    Offline

    The Tourist Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,095
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Wisconsin.
    You mean the really bad words, like 'liberal' or 'socialist'?

    Heck, I wouldn't stand for that effing language in any story I read...
  4. Allan Paas
    Offline

    Allan Paas New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2011
    Messages:
    212
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Estonia
    I have read a few stories (don't remember the titles) where swearing was edited out (I say edited because the dialogue just did not feel right without those particular words in it), or some new and not swearing-sounding words had been made up. It is so... wrong, It irritates me a lot.

    Swearing is a part of everyday life, more or less. It is natural. Some people avoid using and dislike it entirely but you cannot make your work suffer because you think someone might not like it, keep it as realistic as you can. Cutting out bad language lowers the quality of the story.

    If your character's personality and the situation allows and even demands the use of bad language then that is what you should do.
  5. The Tourist
    Offline

    The Tourist Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,095
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Wisconsin.
    Yes, and there was a big story several months ago about the editing done to Huckleberry Finn. Sometimes the politically correct police overreach. One entire segment of the book deals with Huck adjusting his opinion on racism.
  6. Pea
    Offline

    Pea super pea!

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2011
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    in the garden
    Come on. Are you 12? How can this even be a question?

    Yes, it's acceptable.
    1 person likes this.
  7. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    NYC
    does the book have a point if you censor it? its like censoring Fahrenheit 451
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    6,802
    Likes Received:
    2,495
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Of course it's acceptable. It's the way people talk.

    Of course, decades ago, you couldn't publish a book like that. Hemingway had a fight with his publisher over For Whom The Bell Tolls, because he wanted his characters to be able to swear. The publishers objected, so now Hemingway's characters say things like "I obscenity in the milk of thy mother," which is pretty cool and funny on its own, but is definitely NOT what Hemingway wanted to write.
  9. Nakhti
    Offline

    Nakhti Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2012
    Messages:
    400
    Likes Received:
    16
    If swearing is appropriate to your characters, then absolutely. Obviously you can't put swearing in a children's book, and even in YA some words will probably have to be toned down, but if you're writing for an adult readership there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't use bad language.
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    40,071
    Likes Received:
    1,413
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Swearing is a choice. Your market may have some restrictions.

    In any case, if you choose to use gutter language, always use less than you think is "authentic". You will have the illusion of authenticity with a light touch. More than that will seem thicker than it is, even to the point of appearing comedic.

    Watch the movie Cabin Fever sometime. They drop so many F-bombs they had me and my children doubled over with laughter. It was too fucking much to take seriously.
  11. NathanialRobb
    Offline

    NathanialRobb New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2012
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Akron Ohio
    I use swearing in almost every story I write. I stick to writing Military Sci-Fi and stories about Utilitarian and Dystopian states, my current story is about a revolution led by a group of teenagers. Swearing is an integral part of language and one that people use a lot. Realism is important in any story and I think using swear words in dialogue where necessary adds realism to the story.
  12. Trilby
    Offline

    Trilby Senior Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,117
    Likes Received:
    69
    Location:
    NE England
    It depends on what you intend to do with your story when it is finished:

    It won't be acceptable to a womans magazine if it has bad language spattered all over it.
  13. AmyHolt
    Offline

    AmyHolt New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Messages:
    475
    Likes Received:
    16
    Location:
    Warsaw, IN
    I agree.

    If you swear often it means nothing, sort of like using too many !!!!. Save your foul mouth for when it really matters (if you have to use it at all).
    I am of the school of thought that there are far more creative ways to express your displeasure, swearing generally makes you look less educated. Yeah, I know I'll get shot for expressing this anti-swearing opinion so I put on my bullet proof vest. ;)
  14. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,395
    Likes Received:
    907
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what market is this for?... adults, or YA?...

    if the younger end of YA, you may have to tone down the language, but it sure wouldn't be believable if you had tough kids on an estate saying 'heck' and 'darn' and 'so's your old man!' instead of what we all know they'd be saying...
  15. James Berkley
    Offline

    James Berkley Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    NYC
    What I try to do is have the level and type of swearing correlate to the characters position and personality. One of my most socially elevated characters rarely swears. His body guard swears a little more but when she does she goes full boat. Then I have some grunts and young operators that swear a lot.
  16. Mark_Archibald
    Offline

    Mark_Archibald Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Messages:
    191
    Likes Received:
    3
    As long as it is done in an artistic manner than you can get away with pretty much anything.

    Look at Cormac McCarthy, some of his books feature graphic scenes involving babies.

    When you write a chapter, than go back and change it to make people happy; you are no longer a writer. You are selling yourself for fame and $$$.
  17. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Senior Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,493
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Agreed. If I recall correctly Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time had one instance of "fuck", and it hit harder for being the sole use, but that was aimed at the older end of YA. But publishers can be wary that swearing limits the market; I understand that in the US edition of one of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide books the award for "the most gratuitous use of the word 'fuck' in an otherwise serious screenplay" was censored to "the most gratuitous use of the word 'Belgium' in an otherwise serious screenplay", and that was a book aimed at the adult demographic. So definitely check out the market for what you are writing. There are ways around it; rather than using "heck" or "darn" just report the fact that "he swore violently". But if your market will allow it, do it.
  18. MeganHeld
    Offline

    MeganHeld New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    Messages:
    115
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    If the character is a type of person that would swear a little or a lot include swearing. To me swearing is not a bad thing. People do it in real life so why not make some of your characters do that too?
  19. Lasers123
    Offline

    Lasers123 New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2012
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    Swearing should be allowed in dialogue. Just keep it to a minimum, and not too explicit. Your audience is going to then be over 18, so its fine. There wont be many kids who read adult books - they wouldn't understand them. Swearing is a form of expressing feelings most of the time, especially in books.
  20. Inspired writer
    Offline

    Inspired writer New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2012
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    east midlands
    Thank you all for the input. It's highly appreciated. I've been torn with this issue for what feels like weeks. It's become quite the burden. Since part of the story is based on a council estate, I thought maybe I'd have to include some foul language for authenticity but through personal choice I'm not too happy about it. I'll see what happens as the story progresses. Hopefully I can dodge if possible.
Similar Threads: language dialogue
Forum Title Date
General Writing Writing short dialogue in another language Jun 7, 2013
General Writing Writing terms/dialogue in a language you are unfamiliar with? Jun 18, 2012
General Writing Body language help? Yesterday at 11:22 AM
General Writing read in different languages? Jun 22, 2014
General Writing Using local language Mar 17, 2014

Share This Page