To swear or not to swear

Question:
What’s your policy with swearing in your novel? Do you substitute lesser words for the biggies? Or do a Zane Grey sort of thing where you use something that looks like this: “G_______!” Texas said.

Or just leave ’em out?

I know some of you don’t care about this. I know that space marines have potty mouths, so the things they say don’t sound right unless it’s peppered with expletives.

I suppose I could come up with all new swear words to replace those English swear words we all know and love. That way, the marines can be a pottymouthed as they want, but no one gets offended when they’re all, “Move your supercalifragilistic rear!”

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6 thoughts on “To swear or not to swear

    • No. Only swear if the character needs to as part of their existence. A dockworker doesn’t sound like a banker. The dockworker might casually use the f word in every sentence. The banker never uses the f word until he is thwarted by someone who defrauds him, and then he goes from gentile sounding to a vicious, swearing viper. Normal, nice-sounding people may never swear, until you put them in situations of violent conflict, and suddenly they’re saying terrible, nasty things.

      So use the swear words in context. Or don’t use them. Instead of:
      “F_______ ____!” Jack said. “Why’d you hit me in the jaw?”

      You could say,
      Jack was struck in the jaw. He swore loudly. “Why’d you hit me in the jaw?”

      There, the reader can decide what choice bad word went in there. Maybe someone might only have mild words in their mind, so Jack really said in their heads:
      “By gum, shoot! Why’d you hit me in the jaw?”

      Like

        • It’s definitely a tell, not show. Usually it’s a no-no, but if you don’t want to put in the word, you don’t, and that’s one of the ways to do it. I’ve also seen, “He muttered an oath” or “he swore a mighty oath,” or something to that effect.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I get contextual swearing. I guess it has to be used when necessary to set a scene, but there’s plenty of ways around it. I might just make up some new words and let those be sprinkled in the text. Or the thing with the blanks… the reader gets to make up the potty language for themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

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