Swearing + Authenticity in Writing


This post brought to you by the f-word.

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Everytime I send out an e-letter with curse words, it's inevitable that a few people will unsubscribe.

I have a moderate potty mouth (it used to be much worse) and it's not often that I curse in my writing, but it does happen. Sometimes it feels poetic to me. Sometimes it just plain turns me on. It's not my intention to do it for "shock", but simply to make a point in a way that feels right for me. Less shock, more effect.

But I question it every time. I find myself occasionally deleting curse words from things I write out of the fear that I will offend someone.

Oh, the fucking fear.

But the truth is that I love a conversation that is peppered with vulgarity. It's wildly spirited.

And the truth is that I value authenticity in writing. When I feel like I'm holding back when what I really want to do is let loose, I can't feel truly authentic.

I respect that for some readers a well-placed swear word can ruin an otherwise joyful experience. I've been known to give a little warning (see above), but even this feels like an apology of sorts, as if I am saying "I regret to tell you that there is an f-word in this otherwise punchy article. Please forgive the writer in me, she can be a bit of a cheeky slag."

The apology feels like I am diminshing myself in some way, when I actually quite like my verbal digressions (#sorrynotsorry). It feels good, like really good, to be bold and honest and true via the words I write without apology.

It's a tough row to hoe for us writers who want to speak up and be seen and do so without ruffling any feathers. Of course, this isn't really about the f-word (of course it's not). This is about claiming ourselves as writers and I believe that the best writing, the kind that I personally devour as a reader, is not glossed over or apologetic.

It's honest. Unmasked. Messy.

I wanted to know what my writer friends had to say, so I asked this question on Facebook...

"Curse words. Fellow writers... do you use them, intentionally leave them out when you really want to add them in, have no desire for them?
Let's talk."

And this is what writers had to say.

"Vocal coaching is about authenticity, so I use them when I speak with high school ages and up, because when we get fired up shit gets real lol. But I do not use them with their parents as I feel that's not respectful. And that's still me being authentically me." ~ Melissa

"Part of writing in my own authentic voice means including the saltier language. But obviously it's contextual. Writing on my blog requires freedom and authenticity." ~ Alison

"I try not to use them (in my speech and in my writing) but sometimes find them necessary." ~ Erin

"It doesn't bother me when others use them in their writing as long as they fit the voice of the piece and are not being used merely for shock value." ~ Grace


"Sometimes they just feel necessary and true." ~ Krissie

" I use them if that's what flows for me in the moment." ~ Karen

"I'm a New Yorker. I fucking swear, what of it?" ~ Nicole

"I think what I like about words like fuck and shit - holy shit is actually my preference - is that they carry weight - not just the weight of the meaning, but the weight of the sound of the word. It's like dropping sharp rock into a sentence - Fuck! I like these words for the way they break up the flow of a sentence. I like them for their sound is what I'm trying to say." ~ Laurie

"#wildspirittruckermouth" ~ Renee

"It's about using the right word for the job...both in terms of sound and energy.... I'm raising my kids to know their audience and to understand and respect that the strong energy behind certain words offends some people, and that other words have been used to dominate and repress." ~ Michele



I was surprised and fucking thrilled to see such a discussion pop up. I especially appreciated how much thought others have given to their voices as writers, the respect they have for their readers, and the respect they have given themselves in owning their authenticity, however that might look.

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Keep the conversation going. Share your thoughts in the comments below. #fuckyeah