Four Letter Words

No swearingRecently, I discovered my niece is writing a book and that she wanted a little feedback. She didn’t have writer’s block per se, but I think her critics had locked her creativity down. Once I got involved, I couldn’t help but encourage her, and she started writing again.

Her story happens to be really interesting. She commented that some other people read it and they demanded that she change things. Like the cursing of her characters. She’s writing about gang kids, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t saying, “darn it” or using a thesaurus to choose more appropriate verbs.

This brings me to an ongoing conversation, one rehashed when I participated in several faith based writing groups. The question: What is your perspective on swearing? Even among the less legalistic faith based communities, the prevalent belief was, if your character would swear, it then it must be written so. I believe you must be true to your characters, not your critics.

Profanity, if used, should reveal the character, or an aspect of him or her, then their language becomes the measure of the character. Gratuitous swearing, on the other hand, reveals more about the writer.

As a reader or a writer, what are your thoughts?

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Glad that you managed to get your niece feeling creative again. As for swearing, my main thoughts are that you have to be true to character. If we used safe language, just to appease delicate readers, then we end up writing about people that aren’t authentic.


    1. JEOcean says:

      Gabriela, I absolutely agree! Love your site!


    2. JEOcean says:

      I believe that, Gabriela! Thanks for your comment.


    3. JEOcean says:

      I hope I’ve replied to this earlier than now, but you really are speaking truth. I have long been a believer that the story leads the direction of the tale and the characters are like radio stations, and I’ve just tuned in to copy down everything they say. If I take it any other direction, the static is unbelievable and often, goes right off the air. Strange analogy. Thank you for your comments. Please visit anytime.


  2. Jack Petersen says:

    There is a difference between profanity and swearing. Profanity is directly or indirectly associated with God. Swearing is the result of a limited vocabulary when someone wishes to express an emotion, and the usage becomes so much a part of everyday speech that it becomes meaningless.


    1. JEOcean says:

      Jack, Thank you for the clarification. I appreciate your input.


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