Foul Language in Writing

Foul Language in Writing

by Adam Huddleston


Last week, I posted a blog defining a few of the terms we generally refer to as swearing or cursing. I hinted that a future post may concern the appropriate/inappropriate use of foul language in writing. I realize that this topic is very wide and that there are many on both sides who feel strongly about it. Let’s just take a few moments to analyze this subject.

First of all, let me state that I am proud to proclaim myself as a Christian. As such, I believe that the use of foul language in speech is displeasing to God. I base this on verses such as Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4. In a world where the common use of foul language has become the norm rather than the exception, my family and I have chosen not to use it in our everyday speech. As it relates to my writing, I honestly have not come across many instances where the character’s dialogue would necessitate cursing. If I do, I’ll deal with it on a case-by-case basis.

At this point, someone usually argues that swearing in your speech is not necessarily the same as having your characters swear. I understand the point and if it is possible to have your reader understand that the words spoken by your characters do not always reflect those of the author, I would agree with it.

Another point to consider is if swearing is appropriate for the specific character. The stereotypical sailor or gang member may use foul language, but I would guard against falling into the trap of assuming that every “rough/uneducated” type of person speaks that way. If it is appropriate, use it, but don’t overdo it. I’ve read many novels containing excessive foul language where the extra words simply did not add anything to the story. Instead, it detracted from it.

The last point to remember is you should write to your genre. If you are writing a book of children’s stories, you probably don’t want to be dropping f-bombs every other sentence. Not only is it inappropriate for the genre, but more importantly, you will NEVER…GET…PUBLISHED. Save foul language for the adult readers.

I hope these arguments will help you in your writing!

1 thought on “Foul Language in Writing

  1. I can appreciate your desire to stay true to your faith’s teachings but I suggest your default stance might, in the long run, work against your ability to exercise a full gamut of emotions in fictiional relationships.. I sympathise with your view that foul language is distasteful. But so is murder, rape etc. Do your standards preclude use of such acts – a whole other level of acts offensive to God’s view – in your writing? If not, why not? There are writerly wicked ways to suggest suitable punishment awaits wrongdoers who commit acts that offend community standards (in your view). Why don’t you exercise your right to encourage a ‘cleaner’ aural environment in acknowledgement of what you believe God’s wishes might be? I stopped watching or supporting comedian and actor Eddie Murphy because of his persistent use of language. Why do public figures want to drag the rest of the community to their ill-defined or considered values?

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