Page 1? Hooked. Page 2? Yes, give me more. Page 3? I like, I like! But before I even reached page 10, a single word slapped me in the face.
Now, this wasn't a minor curse word; it was one of the really bad ones. My conscious did its thing, letting me try to continue but stripping away all the enjoyment I'd initially had. I knew that if I didn't close the book, I would 1) feel guilty, and 2) wouldn't enjoy another word of it. And there was no way of knowing if any more swearing lurked in later pages.
So what did I do? Slowly, sadly, I closed the book. A single cuss word had ruined the entire story for me.
Books don't need swear words. Books shouldn't have swear words. It's wrong. But how many YA novels have you read, or at least started, and then bumped into them? *runs out of fingers to count on* Yeah, it's pretty bad. And I wish it would stop.
Sure, I read plenty of books with a few minor curse words, but that doesn't mean I like it. It doesn't mean I don't sigh, crinkle my nose, or press my finger against the word so I don't accidentally see it again before I turn the page. On the other hand, if the book tosses an s-word or an f-bomb in my face, that's when my conscience draws the line. Even if it was only once. Even though it was only four letters.
Four letters, people. Four harmless letters combining to create something foul.
What also saddens me is when I hear some Christian writers say they like to use a d-word here or an h-word there as long as it helps emphasize something. "I need this cuss word to get the emotion across," they explain.
No, they don't. "Need" is a strong word. There are better ways to emphasize a sudden problem or misfortune in a character's journey. There are cleaner, more effective ways to convey emotion.
No writers should include any language for any reason. But why? Let's start with the Jesus answer, because that's most important.
God doesn't want us to swear.
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).
So there's your answer. Because God said not to. Swear words don't impart grace to the hearers, to the readers. We want to edify others, and swear words do the opposite.
Another simple answer would be that there's a reason bad words are called "bad" words. I mean, people call them bad, and then use them as if they aren't. That's messed up.
Swearing is overused in books.
As much as I hate it when writers use even one minor curse word - as much as I wish that curse words didn't even exist - I would feel better if cursing in books was just a rare thing. Every single time I pick up a Young Adult book, I'm afraid it'll have swearing. Common Sense Media and Plugged In are great parental review sites, but they can't analyze every YA book ever published. There's no way to escape the possibility.
Swearing is one of the biggest clichés in books. It's time to kill that cliché.
A book without swearing isn't unrealistic.
Swearing itself is realistic, of course. A lot of people swear in real life all the time, sometimes way more than a book character would ever dare to. But stripping your writing free of language doesn't make it unrealistic. It just makes it cleaner. And that's what YA literature needs. A bath.
Click here to read Gray Marie's post and...
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