Foul Language


I recently received a 1-star review of my suspense/thriller, Multiples of Six, because there’s “foul language” on the first page. It created some discussion in the comments section of the review about whether it was legitimate for someone to review a book after only reading one page. Especially when they could have previewed the book without buying it (though it was free this week) and discovered the same thing. I’m not here to discuss that and I don’t wish to condone any sort of retaliation against the reviewer (though, judging by her other reviews, her main purpose is to point out foul language in books). Honestly, I’m a bit tickled by the review. That kinda thing makes me laugh and a part of me is sorta glad it’s there (besides, I’ve racked up eight 5-star reviews of the same book this week). What I’m really interested in discussing is the use of colorful language in writing and why I believe it’s necessary in certain circumstances.

I write my adult fiction under a pen name (Andy Rane) for a reason. I don’t want my YA readers reading that content. It’s not meant for kids. It’s not particularly violent. It’s not gory either. But, a few of the characters use rough language. Why? Because that’s a reality of life. Ever worked in a factory? I did. I learned a lot of colorful adjective combinations during my brief stint. Now, I’ve spent most of my career working in offices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the language cleans itself up. Sure, it’s not factory speak, but it’s not uncommon, in my workplace at least, to hear an occasional f-bomb dropped in a meeting. We’re all adults.

What I didn’t learn on the factory floor, or at the construction site, or in the high school gym locker, or… you name it, I learned from my father-in-law. A Vietnam vet, his use of profanity is legendary. He drops a dirty “C” like it’s nobody’s business (a word, even in fiction, I’m loathe to use). Now, if you happen to live in a world where no one swears, good for you. I can tell you that it probably means they’re doing it behind your back. Either way, I don’t write stories about that world. In my YA stories, I certainly keep it pretty clean. There are no f-bombs allowed, but damn, dammit, crap, and maybe even an occasional bastard are fair game. In my adult fiction, I like my characters to feel as real as possible and, at least in my world, real people swear. Some real people love to swear and so do some of my characters.

I know you have an opinion on this subject! Feel free to let me know in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by!

6 thoughts on “Foul Language

  1. I love to swear – sometimes it just adds flavor to my speech. I have also been known to drop the f-bomb periodically in my writing – but only if it fits with the story, general style of the piece, and the characters. I don’t have a problem with cursing in life or in books, as long as it’s not every other word.

    I enjoy the first time I hear people swear in a conversation – it makes me smile and think – now, this guy/girl I can really talk to. 🙂


  2. I never cuss, and I shy away from books that do. Bad words are like a little rubber band snapping against my wrist. Three of them, and they add power to the scene. Three per page and I get annoyed at the constant jolt. I have no problem with authors who choose that language–there are lots of readers out there who are different than me! But fortunately, there are also lots of other books to choose from. I write and read YA for a reason, I guess. 🙂


  3. Pingback: BookBub Postmortem | S.A. Mulraney

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