Friday, January 6, 2012

Swearing in YA? What the #&%@!

There's a lot of controversy in the writing world when it comes to teenage characters and curse words. On one side are the people writing these foul mouthed characters, arguing that real teenagers swear all the time so why not use it if it feels natural to the story??

On the other side are the parents/teachers/librarians/etc who feel its their duty to protect children from bad influences such as sex, violence, and curse words in their literature.

My stance? I think it's OK. Realistically, there's absolutely nothing a teenager is going to read about in a book that they won't hear coming out of their peers mouths, especially the older they get. Hell, most high school seniors swear more often than Marines.

But I think there has to be a reason behind it. If your character is just cursing because that's what teenagers do, then I don't see that as a necessary part of your story. If, however, they're cursing at their boyfriend who just cheated on them, or dropping the f-bomb after breaking their arm- and its a natural response to the situation- I at least won't bat an eye.

As far as the adults looking to censor what their children read, or see on television, I completely understand their position. I think its important for parents to have opinions on their children, but there's also a line. Do I believe its inappropriate for a 13 or 14 year old to read a book about a child prostitute? Yes! Of course! Do I think that someone older than 16 is going to be damaged by reading a character dropping the F-bomb? Nope.

So for me, it all comes down to the age range. In my own writing I'll limit swearing if I'm aiming the book for the younger side of the YA scale. Of course I won't curse up the whole story just because its for older teens. A swear word is a choice just like every other word you choose to use. It has to have an impact and a purpose, otherwise its just unnecessary.

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What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my position? And how often do your characters drop a four letter word?

Do you put swearing into the same category as sex when it comes to YA??

What else is YA taboo in your opinion???



  1. Ah, swearing in YA. I think it's a really confusing topic, because both sides of the argument have good points. Like you said, it all depends on the circumstance. I find it depends on the character, too. I hardly ever swear, but when I write some stuff, the character just demands to let a few swear words drop. As for parents, it's a good idea to censor what their child is reading. But kids are going to face all this stuff in their life sometime sooner or later, right? Great post! :)

  2. I don't put swearing or sex in anything I write. I don't believe that others should be prevented from doing so - I just don't.

    My opinion is if you think something in a book is inappropriate - don't read it. I also think it is acceptable for parents to decide what to expose their own children too. That right of course does not extend to other peoples children.

    Basically - live and let live

  3. My characters do swear occasionally, but it fits the context. They don't walk around swearing and dropping the f-bomb through the entire book.

    Michelle :)