For $%£@*’s sake – is there any need for swearing? Warning, (obviously) contains swearing #WritingCommunity

I’ve had a bit of a shaky start with the blog this year as we’ve been having a tricky time with one of our dogs, Charlie the rescue Galgo from Spain, who is very ill at the moment. So the blog has sort of gone out the window. 

Charlie in his lovely winter jumper!

I have caught up with quite a lot of my book reviews but am aware that I haven’t really been posting anything about editing. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to post some of the posts that clients and blog followers have said have been most helpful to them.

Today’s post is about that thorny issue of swearing (something I must admit I have been doing a great deal of lately. IMHO nothing beats a really good swear!).

I never, ever once swore in front of my mum. Not once, even as an adult. She would have been horrified, even though she swore. My children (well, they’re 24 and 22) swear in front of me all the time. I swear in front of them. I’m sure some people reading this think I’m a terrible mother.

I saw a tweet the other day (bloody Twitter, causes me so much stress) asserting that using swearing in your writing meant you were too ignorant to think of another word. This lady was implying that those who swear, or whose characters swear, are stupid.

This made me f#$king furious. 

Firstly – swearing doesn’t make you stupid. This is not a brag, but I have a master’s degree. One of my foul-mouthed children has just received a distinction in his masters at King’s College, London. The other is studying veterinary medicine at the Royal Veterinary College. They are kind, compassionate, thoughtful, caring, wonderful people. And they are certainly not stupid.

Secondly – as a writer, you need to use the right word, for your character and for the situation. Not the most fancy word. Or the longest word. If your character is about to be murdered for example, are they going to say, ‘Goodness me’? If they have just found out a deadly secret, or had their inheritance stolen, been shot in the knee, or are being burned at the stake, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh dear, what a calamity.’ They’re going to swear.

And that goes for historical fiction too. Street urchins, prostitutes, shopkeepers, manservants and working class women swore. So did the gentry. And the clergy. And everyone. Apparently the first recorded use of the word ‘fart’ is from 1250! ‘Fuck’ was used in English in the fifteenth century. ‘Shit’ is one of the oldest words in existence.

Swearing has its place. Sometimes, the most filthy word is definitely the right word. If you’d been at my house on election night in 2019, the air was blue. And it made me feel much better! And as writers, we need to make sure that the words we use are the right words. Adding a ‘shit’ or a ‘fuck’ to your manuscript doesn’t make you stupid. If it’s the right word, then it’s the right word.

So put down that fucking thesaurus!

13 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Alison, I myself am not a big swearer, but there are times when your characters need to use the F word! I have a son who is in the Army where every other word is F… – it seems to be about as common as damn.
    Prayers for Charlie. He looks to be a sweet boy and I hope he gets well soon!

    Liked by 1 person

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