Monday, 1 July 2013

Choosing The Right B****y Words!

There are some great blog posts around at the moment, by writers, for writers, designed to give the blog-post readers a good kick up the writing a**e. If you fancy reading a couple, (although anyone who doesn’t like swear words should avoid these links) you can find them here ( and here (

Both of these posts offer some great advice. They also use some *interesting* language to get their points across. For me, the use of the language in these posts works … for the individual posts. However, there seems to have been a plethora of such posts recently, doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, and as a result, they don’t have the same impact that the first two posts I saw (above) had on me. The repetition of the swear words loses their impact.

There’s a time and a place for swear words … and it does surprise me sometimes when I see a student using them in their article drafts … particularly when they’ve told me which market they are targeting! I always highlight swear words in a student’s text and suggest they check their target publication to see if they use such words. If you see other articles using them, then at least you know the readers are used to reading them (and the editor is happy to publish them). But if none of the articles you read use swear words then that’s a pretty big signal that neither should you.

Even if you only use one such word - because it has the impact you want it to have (and used correctly, they can have impact) - if your target publication doesn’t use them at all, the editor will edit it. As a result, your text will no longer have the impact you wanted. Far better to rewrite your text in a different way to give it the impact you want. 

I’m not saying don’t use swear words - I’m just saying use them for the appropriate market. You might find the occasional swear word in some men’s magazines, for example. But again, check where you see them. Are they used by the writer, to get a point across? Or are they used in a direct quote, because that conveys the interviewee’s character? 

So next time you want to use a swear word in your writing, ask yourself is it necessary? There are times when it might be, if it gets your point across. But always let your market dictate its usage. And, generally, the use of swear words works better if you follow the principle of “less is more.”

Good !?*/&!ing luck.

(Of course, this applies to all words, not just swear words. Take it from the man who once had an editor delete the word ‘fart’ from his text and replace it with ‘break-wind’.)


  1. I agree. Folk have excessive reactions to things like bad language. It's as if they have two levels of consciousness, one of which looks out for verbal triggers (not exclusively swear words*) and when one is found, overrides everything else, including hearing and common sense, triggering 'rant' mode.
    Best not to upset them, then.
    * I'd give examples but don't want to set anyone off on a rant.

  2. How about using them in material submitted for competitions?


    1. That is difficult, George. Some judges don't like so see them, whilst others will find them acceptable. However, all competition judging is subjective, so what one judge doesn't like another will think is great.

      I would suggest, though, that more judges would prefer not to see such language, so if you decide to use it, you might be making your entry's life more difficult in trying to find a judge that does find it acceptable.

  3. Interesting point - we had a part-time member attending our local writing group session a few weeks ago and he was 'surprised' by one of the pieces read out in the group. Yes the content was 'adult' but was well written and relevant to the writer's work (a book) and so we agreed it was perfectly acceptable.