profanity in writing

I was in a lively discussion where someone was proposing that profanity in writing can be a legitimate use of style, specifically profanity that is not a part of any characters dialog.  I insisted that profanity reflects a lack of knowledge and ability with ones language.

With the hundreds of thousands of words that are available to the writer any idea can be expressed well with eloquence or power or any other attribute.  But profanity does not have  a direct meaning nor even a consistent indirect meaning leaving the reader in the dark about the writers message.  In spoken language, the meaning of profanity (when it has a meaning) is most commonly indicated by the emphasis provided by the speaker.   It may mean anger, disgust, frustration or simply indifference and the only indication is the mannerism of the speaker at the time of speaking the profanity.

With some speakers, every sentence is liberally sprinkled with profanity showing clearly that the profanity is just a filler used to maintain the speakers active position while they think of what they want to say.   For example, with “like” as a filler one might say “You, like, want to, like, go to the, like, mall?”  For the user of profanity, this would become “You fuckin’ want to fuckin’ go to the fuckin’ mall?”.  Neither sentence sounds very intelligent.

Of course, in dialog, a sentence like the one of those above would be an effective way of describing one of the characters in the story as being somewhat unintelligent. But in the narrative portion of the story it is simply a display of incompetence.

I would love to hear the opinion of other readers and writers on this.  Feel free to comment.

About justjoe

Reader, writer and retired entrepreneur. Enjoying life!
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4 Responses to profanity in writing

  1. Norene says:

    swear words just show the speaker has nothing intellegent to say

  2. Sally Brown says:

    I think that some profanity in writing is not a bad thing. After all, some of the people we meet do use profanity sometimes. I think as people and a society, we have put too much emphasis on a simple word than needs to be there. For example, if I say “darn you” or if I say “damn you”, there is no difference in meaning. So why so much issue with “damn you”.

    I tend to think that a word is just a word; it is how we use these words that is important. If I have a character who occasionally uses profanity, it doesn’t mean the character or myself, as a writer, is not intelligent.

    On the other hand, if someone only uses profanity for the sake of getting a reaction or just has nothing positive to offer, this is not good. Makes me wonder what is going on with this person.

    This is just my opinion. Thanks for letting me share.

  3. justjoe says:

    I agree that there is a place for profanity in character dialog. If you are writing a quote for a character who is supposed to be a thug and the quote is in perfect prose, the character is not very believable. But the narrative of the story where I say it is a mark of poor skills on the part of the writer. The writer is supposed to know the language and use like a real craftsman. Relying on profanity shows that the skill is not there.

  4. Boby says:

    kai Posted on Hi Carla ~Thanks so much for stopping by and leviang a comment. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed our content sans the profanity. As to your feelings regarding the swearing I understand why you would feel the way you do. I thought about not using profanity, but in the end I realized it went against what CHICK is all about honoring who we are.I swear when I talk, it’s connected to how I express my passion for something. I hope you’ve noticed that we only use swearing in a positive manner on this site. It’s meant to get you going and inspire you to take action. I know this may turn some people off, but I’ve chosen to be okay with that. It’d be a bit hypocritical to create a site preaching authenticity while not practicing what I preach. CHICK was never intended for young girls and I do not promote it to that audience. We may in the future create a branch more geared towards young girls but for now it’s all about the more mature CHICKs among us.It was interesting to hear you say your were taken aback by the term fuckin used in our marketing. A lot of the good stuff in life happens when we step out of our comfort zone, into the unknown, and embrace feeling uncomfortable. Profanity can be a simple way to get used to feeling uncomfortable. If you’ve read CHICK for any length of time you know we’re all about throwing ourselves off kilter as a way to grow and evolve.Most importantly, what I love is that you were brave enough to speak up about something you didn’t like. You spoke your mind while still being very respectful. One of the best things we can do as superheroes is learn to accept our differences. Thank you for that. And thank you for making me aware of Experts Academy, it looks interesting.

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