Swearing: should we accept or ignore it in our blogging?

Are you guilty of using a foul word or two in your blogposts, emails, comments, Facebook/Twitter posts et al? Do you think they enhance what you’ve written – or do they make you look foul-mouthed?

I know I am guilty of using words that I shouldn’t. Many of my articles, posts, comments etc. are peppered with (usually mild) profanities which tend to roll off the virtual tongue quite easily – or at least they do if you are, as I am, surrounded by lippy young people who fire off swear words if they so much as misplace a sandwich or find a hair extension out of place. As such, their use does have a nasty habit of becoming second nature. And I know that’s no excuse…

There are many people out there – and not just older folks – who find swearing objectionable, and you can’t blame them. Mostly they have been brought up to believe that swearing and cursing are disrespectful to the majority of people. My parents put across, to me, the diktat that the use of swear words merely demonstrated one’s ignorance and lack of vocabulary (mind you, that all went out of the window when one of them stepped on a live wasp or slammed their finger in a car door.)

Two categories – religious, and vulgar

As far as I can see it, swearwords in our modern age fall into two categories: 1) religious cursing, and 2) vulgarisms.

Religious cursing is very sensitive for many people and it’s something I try to avoid – don’t you? But what about words like “damn,” damned,” or “damning?” Despite those appearing largely innocuous these days, should someone wish to take it to the limit, there could be a religious connotation here.

And that doesn’t even begin to infiltrate what some people write using terms that may offend a whole host of religions from Christian to Judaism to Islam to who knows how many more. So is it appropriate to use religiously orientated swear words in our writing? In my humble opinion, absolutely no way.

OK, how about the serious vulgarisms?

Here’s where we enter relatively uncharted waters.  I remember once asking my father where he thought the word f*ck came from, and he – as a veteran of WW2 – trotted out the explanation that it’s an acronym standing for “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Nice one. But is it true? According to Wikipedia, the origins of the F-word are vague… so I doubt that my Pop’s answer was correct, convenient though it may have seemed at the time. Snopes.com seems to agree with me on that one.

And then there is the ultimate vulgarism (or at least so most of us think) – c*nt.  Where does this awful, horrible word come from? Wikipedia, bless them, have explored this one to a helpful extent and say, “the earliest citation of this usage in the 1972 Oxford English Dictionary, c 1230, refers to the London street known as Gropecunt Lane. Scholar Germaine Greer has said that “it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock.”

Maybe it’s the connotation, but maybe, too, it’s the sound of the word. Germaine was right. Would you use this word in any of your writing? OK, but there are lesser swearwords that express our thoughts so well, and they don’t resonate with quite the same impact.

Does swearing actually have a legitimate place in our writing?

This is where it gets a bit more interesting. Swearing, whether the purists like it or not, is a very common element in our every-day parlance. It’s part of our modern culture.

So, do we – as people charged with reflecting realistically this modern culture in our writing – pronounce judgment and exclude swearing as naughty, smutty, dirty and undesirable? Should we adopt the nanny-like stance of television drama in which even evil villains, murderers, drug dealers, etc. only say a mere “bloody” here and a “sh*t” there?

blogging,writing,blog writing,business,newsletter,HowToWriteBetter.net,How To Write Better,Suzan St MaurOr should we incorporate the swearing that people use in everyday speech, into the writing we do in our blogs, comments, posts, articles and more?

I’d love to know how you guys feel about this, so please jot down your comments here.

Brush up your writing, whether you swear or not:

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“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

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Thoughts

  1. It probably depends on who you are writing for and what you are writing. My blog is a legal information blog so swearing would be out of place (although I may use one of the milder words from time to time). However if you are writing primarily for people who swear a lot it may be acceptable.

    I generally find the use of the f and c words (with a very few exceptions) inappropriate more or less wherever I find them, though. If you want to make an impact, there are other ways to do it.

  2. Thanks for that, Tessa. As you say, with a topic like legal information swearing is largely inappropriate, although I expect even highly-respected lawyers do let the odd swearword slip!

    Suze

  3. Hi Suze
    Where I swear depends on the environment I am in. I don’t swear on twitter if I can help it, and you can check using Cursebird 🙂
    Facebook I find is more personal and you’ll find all kinds of swear words there. LT I still don’t swear very often there and swearing I think is added automatically when you click send

  4. LOL at what you say about LT, Sarah … I think it must be a condition of getting past the moderator to include at least one four-letter word for every 3 lines of text!

    What interests me most is whether we, when we’re writing as representatives of how people speak in real life, should we reflect the exact realities of what people say, or should we clean the language up out of respect to some readers who may disapprove?

    In other words do we write as as pure reporters of fact, or as verbal filtration systems?

  5. Rhiannon Hill says:

    No time for people who are prudish about swearing. It’s just another way of finding reasons to criticise others, control people. I mean, they are WORDS, they are just WORDS. !

  6. You’re right, Rhiannon – it’s like that old kids’ saying of “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    But it’s amazing just how violently some people react to what, as you say, are mere words.

    Mind you – if everyone habitually used the worst of the swearwords these would lose all impact. So what then would we resort to when we need to speak out in anger, shock, etc.?

  7. In a short answer , I would say there is no need for swearing of any sort on blogs Suze. Some might not agree with me but there you

  8. Of course there is no NEED for swearing Ida – you’re absolutely right there!

    It’s more a matter of just how much we, as writers/bloggers/commentators, should reflect the way people speak in real life … should we pass it on verbatim, or should we clean it up? That’s what intrigues me.

  9. In Porridge (Norman Stanley Fletcher etc) they had to invent a whole new swear word (naff off) because the real language used in prisons would be unacceptable to a family audience!

    Re your comment above, there is one barrister blogger who often uses quite strong language (even c from time to time) on his blog. Or did, I have not read it for a while. I suppose its a reflection of the language used in posh barrister all boys together drinking sessions etc. Not my thing I’m afraid.

  10. LOL @ Tessa! I wondered who it was who invented “naff off” because the Princess Royal was quoted as saying that to photographers some years ago …. it would appear that she was a fan of Porridge. (Weren’t we all…)

    I would love to start a trend whereby we invent new swearwords which sound like swearwords but actually aren’t. So far I’ve only managed to come up with two:

    Trollocks (similar to b*ll*cks except that there are three)

    Baldock (a lovely town in Hertfordshire, England, but its name just sounds like a swearword to me)

    Any more? Please share your creative ideas…and thanks for your comment Tessa

    Sz

  11. As long as the swearing doesn’t personally insult someone then it is fine. Swearing at someone personally should be confined to face to face encounters because at least then you’re giving your intended target the opportunity to strike back.

    Otherwise I think its all a load of bollocks!

    • You’re right, Toby – to shout out a 4-letter word when you stub your toe isn’t as bad as using the same word, probably followed by “off,” to another person…

      And it’s not bollocks, Toby. It’s “trollocks…….”

      Sz xx

  12. Nicola Scowen says:

    I think it very much depends on the audience of the blog, interestingly having worked in predominantly male sales environments I swear quite a lot when talking but not when writing unless I really want to hammer home a point.
    I was asked by a friend at a dinner party what my favourite swear word was and everyone in the room had their own favourite not necessarily one they use but one they like the sound of. The one I cannot abide is the c one absolutley hate the word the way it is said and the sound of it. (it is mentioned in Canterbury Tales is it not that naughty Wife of Bath!!!).

    • Thanks for that Nicola and I agree – the “c” word really does sound sharp and utterly charmless. Interestingly enough it’s a word I don’t hear half as much as all the other popular swearwords, and I don’t think I live a particularly sheltered life!

      My all-time favourite is “trollocks,” though. Sounds rude and doesn’t offend…!!

  13. I am quite partial to dropping a magic word here and there in some company but really have no desire to see it on my Twitter feed and frankly those who do I regard with some degradation of respect for their intelligence. Truly. Most often when it occurs it serves no purpose in that context and adds nothing to the communication except to eliminate all doubt that the person has no concept of conduct appropriate to a public space, and no respect for those around them.

    Lately I have been noticing this casual use of profanity in public spaces, very often by parents to each other in front of their children and this is a matter of some concern. I don’t swear because I have a limited vocabulary and if I want to drive a point home I can do it very directly without swearing. Indeed to swear at that time would lose my message and with it the surgical precision with which it is crafted. It is plain that for many who swear in any environment without restraint very often have limited choices available to them to express themselves. That is the real pity.

    • It’s a really tough one, Lindy. As I have said to the other commentors/commenters (sp!) from a writer’s point of view, what should we reflect? The way people should speak, or the way people do speak? I often smile when watching violent scenes on soaps like the UK’s East Enders (not that I watch it that often mind you! and listen to what horrible villains committing gruesome murders etc. are saying in the heat of the moment without a single 4-letter word being uttered. To me it’s hypocritical in a way, but I can imagine the outcry if the dialogue was allowed to be true to real life.

      I do agree with you about parents not swearing in front of young children though. At least if we don’t swear in front of them it teaches them that once they start swearing themselves, they need to do so with discretion…

      Thanks for your comment and good luck with crafting further messages with “surgical precision” – brilliant!

  14. Personally on SEOAndy I don’t accept swearwords in posts or in comments, Its fair use of the english language yes but just like posting pictures of scantly-glad ladies isn’t a good idea for the most part.

    I think swearing is a little bit of an odd thing to classify, among “friends” its often fine, but among say clients or children it really isn’t fine. There is a situation for everything, you just have to think twice before writing or saying something dumb.

  15. Usually, the need to swear is evidence of a lack of any real thought or insight.

    Apart from when I do it, obviously.

Trackbacks

  1. […] If you have read a copy of Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki you will know he has some interesting views on swearing. Suze St Maur wrote a piece about swearing after I got the ump over the words p*ss and sh*t in some headlines over at Birds on the Blog. You can tell her your thoughts on the swearing in blogs and other such stuffs here. […]

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