Warning: This post contains strong language which may not be suitable for younger readers and which some people may find offensive.
Swear … use profane or indecent language esp. as an expletive or from anger
source : The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1991
Is it okay to swear in books?
It has been rattling around at the back of my mind for some time and raised its head recently when I was reading through my manuscript. Just how many times did I need to or, indeed, should use the F word?
When I was younger just saying ‘bloody’ was enough to get into trouble. However, ‘bloody’ and other words such as ‘shit’ and ‘piss’ have slipped into everyday usage. I am reliably informed by my teenagers these aren’t even considered as swearing.
This theory seems backed up when we regularly hear these words used in TV dramas, BBC, ITV, C4 or otherwise. They are so common that we probably don’t notice them – they certainly don’t have the same impact as they might once have done.
So what of the F word? Once this was considered particularly offensive and some might say, still is. I can only think of one word that would top it. However, the effectiveness of the F word seems to have been diluted too. For example, take a RomCom film like ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral’ – in the opening scene ‘fuck’ is said eleven times, along with a ‘fuckity-fuck’ and a ‘bugger’. Where it may have shocked at one point, here, it is intended to make for a comical scene. (Transcript http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/f/four-weddings-and-a-funeral-script.html)
Is it any worse writing it down or reading it? Does being in black and white make it more shocking? I personally don’t think so, as long as it’s in context and not just there for the sake of being there. I use swear words when I write, although I will admit to editing a good deal out of my final manuscript. I think originally I had about fourteen variations of the F word and whittled it down to six or seven. I tended to let my bad guy do most of the swearing, although I did let my good guy swear occasionally where I felt it added to the scene. In each instance, I felt it was justified as it was in character and appropriate to the situation.
What do you feel about swearing in books?
Are you comfortable reading and/or writing it? Or do you find it offensive?
Would it put you off reading a book?