Monday, July 3, 2017

Why Swearing in Books is Wrong and Unnecessary #RebelliousWriting

Once upon a time, I started reading a cool-looking book.  The plot was great.  The characters had potential for amazingness.  The futuristic setting promised to be original and intriguing.  It seemed to have all the elements of a good story.

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...
Join the rebellion!


  1. Swearing is so overused! I agree avidly with that!! Thanks for joining and posting. I loved your points and perspective on this issue. :)
    Oh, and btw, Rebellious Writing is trying to get some recruits, so if you're ever interested in getting more involved, feel free to email us at

    1. It totally is! I'm glad you liked the post and am looking forward to seeing how Rebellious Writing will morph and grow :)
      Thank you so much for the invite! I'm considering it, and I will send an email either tomorrow or the day after if I decide to lend a hand in that way. Again, I so appreciate that!! *tackle-hugs you*

  2. *claps hands*

    Wonderful post, Lila Red! I agree, it's tough when a Christian writer feels he needs the cuss word. Seriously, there are at least 5 words to every cuss word that can get the point across.

    And I second Gray's pitch, we could use some more book scouts :)


    1. Thanks! Yes, their whole emphasis/emotion argument is difficult for me to understand. There truly are better ways.
      "Book scout" sounds interesting! Like I told Gray, I'm considering it. Thank you so so so much!! *tackle-hugs you too*

  3. Great post, Lila. Cursing is overdone and its time we stop that trend. We can be the change.

    1. And thank you for putting me in your sidebar. That means a lot to me! *cheesy grin*

    2. It's definitely a cliché, and you're right - we can make a difference, so let's! :D
      You're welcome! Blogger buddies? *high-fives*

    3. *high fives* Of course. I like what you have to say. :)

  4. It is overused. My opinion has always been: You're authors! I'm sure you can think of other words to use and come across just as effectively. That's kinda the job.

    It is sad to have to always worry whenever you open a new book or click on a new movie or TV show. Hopefully we can get a larger selection of books where we know we don't have to worry! One blog I would recommend for great reviews is

    Great post!!! I really agreed with what you said! ��

    1. Yes, that's exactly how I feel about it! Like Catherine said in her comment above, there are like five words to every cuss word that can the point across just as well.

      I know! I'm hopeful, though, because there's us. We believe in clean writing, and we can make a difference.

      That blog is so cool! I'll have to snoop around, see which reviews interest me. Thanks for the recommendation, and for your comment!! :D


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