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In Defense of a Little Profanity

  1. Kylyssa profile image94
    Kylyssaposted 15 months ago

    Shortly after my work was moved from Squidoo to HubPages through the ill-conceived buyout, I sent an email to staff, asking if occasional profanity was allowed and explaining in what context I intended to use it.

    I had started serializing a science fiction novel on Squidoo, and, as is common in books not written for children, it includes some profanity. It's just not natural for an adult male character from a fictionalized version of Detroit to say "oh, shucks!" about people dying by murder or in the face of other terrifying or shocking occurrences. As the Squidoo Team had before them, the HubPages Team agreed that sparing use of profanity was allowed.

    I've cut out the blow-by-blow descriptions of violence and the descriptions of sex and I've cut out all of the f-words. I think it's completely within the bounds of rationality to have a swear word every few chapters when stuff is going dreadfully, tragically wrong for the characters. Anything else would fall oddly on the readers' internal ears and possibly wreck whatever suspension of disbelief they've managed up to that point.

    Some would say that swear words are reserved only for great writers, writers of classical fiction, and best-selling authors, but I have to disagree. I'm not a best-selling author, but that makes it even more important that I avoid as many obviously unnatural occurrences in dialogue as possible when trying to convince my readers of a very, very strange fictional universe. A best-selling author could probably get away with a dying man saying, "Oh, poop, it hurts," but I sure as blazes can't.

    1. RonElFran profile image96
      RonElFranposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      A couple of things to consider:

      I am a voracious reader with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of books scattered around my house. Most of that library consists of works in which authors were able to write fully developed characters without putting profanity in their mouths. I know that takes skill, but to me it serves as an indicator of a writer's ability. To my mind, using profanity is the quick and dirty way to try to have the kind of impact the writer doesn't think they can otherwise attain. I definitely rate writers who employ profanity on a lower level just as writers.

      The other thing to think about is simply practical. There are still many readers in this world who are offended by the use of profanity, and won't read works that employ it. Therefore, by use of profane language a writer eliminates up front a definite proportion of their potential audience. The question is, does using curse words bring in an equal or greater number of people who would not otherwise read what you have written than those you lose? Remember, the loss of a certain number of potential readers by the use of profanity is not speculative - it's definite (I know, because I'm one of them). I've always thought that a skillful writer won't lose readers for failing to use profanity, but certainly will by its use. Especially at the level of hub writing, is it really worth it? I doubt it.

      1. Kylyssa profile image94
        Kylyssaposted 15 months ago in reply to this

        You are right; I am not skilled enough to write believable dialogue in scenes of terror and trauma that doesn't use the type of language common to scenes of terror and trauma in real life. Since I'm dealing with science fiction, my story already has a very large number of things from outside our culture to deal with. I truly do not have the skill to write in language uncommon to our culture while trying to keep people engaged in a story that already has many unusual things for the reader to swallow.

        Anyone who requires all of a writer's words to fit his or her morality is not in my target audience.

        I'm fairly sure if I removed all of the profanity from my novel, you still wouldn't be interested in it. It is, on its most base level, an exploration of what makes a person a person and an individual. I think our beliefs about that are so different that you wouldn't like it at all, no matter how I worded it.

        I'll lose no readers of my work by including profanity. Frankly, almost no one interested in science fiction involving armed conflicts, terror, trauma, and social issues is going to be too squeamish about the realistic use of profanity in dialogue. Test readers were bothered by the use of unrealistic dialogue in the censored versions of action scenes I ran past them, particularly the parts involving soldiers. I actually added in some profanity in parts the first two rounds of test readers found strange. The third round of new test readers rated the scenes much higher after I used the words suggested by the first and second round of test readers. An Iraq war veteran provided me with some very good suggestions, some of which do not appear in the censored HubPages version, but do appear in the unabridged novel.

    2. peachpurple profile image78
      peachpurpleposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      no swear words for me, I prefer normal casual words, anyway, you can write what you want. Feel free to write

  2. starme77 profile image85
    starme77posted 15 months ago

    When I was growing up using the word "bitch" on prime time tv was a big deal. Charlie Daniels was forced to modify his song to son of a gun . Nowadays it seems perfectly fine to use profanity on regular prim time T.V this was saved for HBO and Showtime in the past and rated R. So basically a bit of profanity is pretty much the norm these days - However, some websites still do not allow it and I can understand that.

  3. social thoughts profile image92
    social thoughtsposted 15 months ago

    I wish we could write exactly what we want without these concerns. I believe in freedom of speech. If people are offended, they can choose not to read it.

    1. TIMETRAVELER2 profile image94
      TIMETRAVELER2posted 15 months ago in reply to this

      So start your own blog or website and do as you please!   Nobody is forcing you to write on a site that must deal with Google.

      1. Kylyssa profile image94
        Kylyssaposted 15 months ago in reply to this

        Actually, neither HubPages nor Google has any real problem with the light use of profanity in content. If you re-read the information about Adsense and rules regarding profanity, you'll see they apply to the ads themselves. Adsense wouldn't be on much of anything online, including major magazines, newspapers, and popular blogs if the occasional d@mn, @ss, dumb@ss, or H¤Áll were enough to get it shut off or abridged.

        The people who run Google know it has the power it does because that power is given to them. They know people are more worried about a mega-corporation playing big brother than they are about the occasional use of a naughty word. The Internet is full of naughty words, many of which appear on the same pages as Google ads.

        Forty-five mild to medium heat naughty words per hundred thousand isn't going upset Google or HubPages.

        1. TIMETRAVELER2 profile image94
          TIMETRAVELER2posted 15 months ago in reply to this

          I agree.  What I was saying is that if someone is unhappy because they feel they must follow a few guidelines, they do have other choices.  Also, what you say is absolutely correct, but I have to say that I agree with what Sockii stated.

    2. Kylyssa profile image94
      Kylyssaposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      We have a lot more freedom here on HubPages than many people seem to think. If you'll note, HubPages staff said the light use of profanity was OK.

      I've seen complaints that LGBT topics get automatically filtered and have no ads displayed on them on HubPages. But, in my experience, if the hubber asks for a review by a human, the hub may get its ads back. I had one such hub that mentioned the connection between religious beliefs and lgbt homelessness and its ads were restored. HubPages is really much more open than it may appear at first glance.

      As to Google Adsense, it appears their rules on swearing are for promotions. One mustn't swear in an  Adsense advertisement. Obviously, excessive use of profanity in content will raise some flags, but light use is clearly seen as OK.

  4. aminebombom profile image81
    aminebombomposted 15 months ago

    Swearing is an expression normally used by someone to express their frustration and anger.
    You are good writer Kylyssa, so they gotta appreciate the work you offer

  5. Jodah profile image86
    Jodahposted 15 months ago

    I rarely use profanity in real life but the occasional,word,does slip out when something seriously angers me or I may injure myself. It is just not part of my everyday conversation, however I do feel it is occasionally necessary to use in writing to make certain characters or situations believable. I have used some such words in a few of my hubs especially a series on Australian slang (as you know) and Hub Pages seems ok if it is used sparingly. I admit I am turned off by movies especially that have an over abundance of profanity however. One that still stands out for me was "Dog Day Afternoon" with Al Pacino...the swearing in that was just too much for me and enough for me to rate it one of the worst movies I have ever watched. So, I think some profanity is necessary as long as you don't go overboard.

  6. SouradipSinha profile image85
    SouradipSinhaposted 15 months ago

    A little profanity is surely welcome.
    One thing I would like to add that the young generation gets attracted to a great deal of profanity and violence.
    Keeping in mind the evergreen saying that 'sex sells the best', young writers are including more and more bold elements in their writing and they are selling great!

    1. TIMETRAVELER2 profile image94
      TIMETRAVELER2posted 15 months ago in reply to this

      But not on HP.  Violence, gore and sex are forbidden topics here.  Also, people who read our hubs are not all young people.  In fact, most are in their mid 30's or older.

  7. sockii profile image88
    sockiiposted 15 months ago

    I think there's a very big difference between using profanity in a work of fiction meant to entertain and invoke a sense of setting and reality, and in a non-fiction article meant to inform.

    Profanity in fiction can be almost necessary to capture the way certain characters actually do speak. Whether you agree with their use of language, that is part of human nature and to blank it out is not to accurately represent certain characters.

    On the other hand, I see little reason to need to use profanity in an educational article unless it is about slurs being used in a negative fashion against individual. I've been frustrated about having to censor a few articles I've written on feminist/women's rights issues because I can't directly quote the profanity/slurs used against women. But on the other hand, I see no reason to need to use profanity in articles about food, art, and other topics where they do/should not have any direct relationship.

    1. Kylyssa profile image94
      Kylyssaposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      I agree that profanity has little place in informational articles. I think it does have a place in fiction and in editorial commentary, when it's used to relay some specific intensity of emotion or to support an illusion of verisimilitude.

      1. janshares profile image86
        jansharesposted 15 months ago in reply to this

        +1 I had to look up that word. Thank you. smile

  8. Billie Kelpin profile image90
    Billie Kelpinposted 15 months ago

    Kylyssa, I'm just commenting on the intriguing title of this topic.  Love it!  There is something about the ability to use profanity that enhances language and I think, enhances us as people - especially women. I find it actually creative and meaningful in fiction.  I admire your pluck!  (just writing out here from the left plank of the ledge)

  9. social thoughts profile image92
    social thoughtsposted 15 months ago

    I don't think it should matter whether it's fiction or nonfiction. The writer should be allowed to use their own voice, whether they use profanity or not.

    1. Billie Kelpin profile image90
      Billie Kelpinposted 15 months ago in reply to this


    2. Kylyssa profile image94
      Kylyssaposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      I think it's inappropriate in an article but perfectly appropriate in an editorial. I don't think it should be censored if a writer's professional article-writing style includes it, I just think it serves no purpose, say, in an informational piece about shoe construction. However, it may have a very clear place in an editorial about your thoughts and feelings about shoe construction or in an editorial insertion in an informational article about shoe construction. There's nothing wrong with inserting a bit of opinion or emotion into an article but it's really no longer purely an article anymore.

      I think many people think they are writing straight articles when they are writing things a bit more like editorials or articles that include some editorial commentary along with the information presented. I'm not surprised because it has become the convention, even in mainstream media, to serve news and to provide information along with at least a small side-order of commentary and opinion. 

      I disagree with the use of profanity in purely informational articles other than for purposes of providing examples or stating things that were said. That doesn't mean I disagree with editorializing a bit and using profanity to express your opinions or feelings. It also doesn't mean a writer ought to be censored if he incorporates profanity into a purely factual article along with the who, what, why, where, when, how, how to, and so on. I just don't know how one could even do it without it being an expression of opinion or emotion. I'd be tickled pink by an example of the genre.

      I consider most of what I write on HubPages to be editorials with a bit of information in them. If you are writing from atop a soapbox, chances are you are writing an editorial.

  10. ottomatic profile image75
    ottomaticposted 15 months ago

    You can also lose readers by being fake. Men and women in real life use profanity all the time, why should this be excluded from writings about people fictional or otherwise?

    1. social thoughts profile image92
      social thoughtsposted 15 months ago in reply to this

      smile Right on!