Swearing in Literature

Andrew Chapman

swear book

In Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker says that swearing is a sign of a civilized society. You’re not going to be hung for comparing a member of the royal family to the back end of a donkey. We have progressed beyond that. There is no doubt that there is an offensive side to the English language but you are free to use it as you please. The question is; when should it be used, and when should it be avoided?

If you are writing a picture book for three year-olds it’s probably best that the talking squirrel doesn’t have speech bubbles filled with expletives. But that’s obvious to anyone so let’s focus on fiction aimed at adults. The reason this subject is on my mind is that I’m reaching the end of writing a horror/thriller novel and as the first rewrite looms I start to think about these…

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