Life Between the Pages: What is Up With All the Cursing?

I feel like I can no longer open up a book and experience clean reading. Profanity litters the pages like “the” and “a.”

I’m a little uptight. Okay, maybe more than a little. But I was raised by parents who didn’t let us curse ( I’m the only one in my family who still doesn’t curse) and took that to heart. I can actually count on one hand how many times I’ve actually said one. I didn’t feel very good about myself when I used it, but no one around me seemed to have an opinion about it.

I find cursing to be crude and unsophisticated. I also appreciate the power of words and words like enraged, furious, and incensed carry more power than pissed off. Total honesty. I cringed just writing that. And that’s probably being mild.

I appreciate elegance, sophistication, and a mastery of words (and the ownership of or access to a thesaurus). I don’t think cursing is a necessity as a rule.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wholly against cursing. I don’t think books should always be squeaky clean. Indeed, I think profanity can be effective and pack quite a punch when used sparingly and for effect. I also recognize that some books, because of the setting or characterization, depend on cursing to keep it real.

But I still don’t believe every book needs pages filled with curse words. It’s actually insanely off-putting to me. And, seriously, every character has to curse? I don’t know about you, but I can have all kinds of conversations with different people without a single curse from either of us.

I also think it’s something fantasy books have a problem with. If it’s in a made-up world, some of the language is also often made up. Which means curse words tend to be made up. But I don’t think they are quite as emphatic as they could be either because they’re over used or they’re just too different that they become another word like “forest” and  “sword.” I can read them without feeling the emotion that’s supposed to be behind them. They’re like fun little words.

I hate opening up a book and seeing curse words on every other line. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book.

I appreciate their use, but can they be used less often?

Take a look at the other things I think about while reading or check out my book reviews, both with and without cursing, over at the Bookshelf.

30 thoughts on “Life Between the Pages: What is Up With All the Cursing?

  1. I grew up in a house that also had strict rules about language, so when I entered my rebellious phase, I screamed the F word outside for the sheer liberation of it, lol. Now that I’m a parent, I try to encourage my kids to use polite language without turning cussing into a forbidden sin.

    I think of cursing as a heavy spice, like clove. A pinch can add to the complexity of the flavor, but too much is going to drown out everything else and ruin the dish.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Haha, that’s funny! I’m trying to do the same with my kids, but, considering how often they’re used, I’m afraid they’ll never learn there’s a time and place for them.

      I absolutely agree. When used sparingly, they’re great and really add flavor. I get it when they’re used for the atmosphere of the book, but, when it doesn’t add anything, it just makes my opinion of the book and author sink very low.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My whole family curses and always has, but we were raised to know the difference between the right time versus the wrong time. I still curse regularly, depending on the context and audience.
    BUT – I do agree with you! I think cursing in stories can be used for character types or certain situations where you know it adds to the story telling aspects. Like the person above, I always think of curse words like salt. A little bit added amplifies the flavor, but too much ruins the dish.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I absolutely agree. I personally hate cursing, but I do appreciate there’s a time and place. It drives me nuts when it seems to be anyone’s primary method of self-expression. In books, words matter so much that I don’t see the point of being unnecessarily heavy handed with curses.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I feel the same way about vulgarity in movies. Whenever I go see a comedy I cringe because I just know there’s going to be some unnecessary and blatant references that require no creativity at all. For reading, if you’re on Twitter, check out #CleanIndieReads or #CleanReads. Quality books with no curse words or vulgarity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great, thank you! I’m still working on navigating Twitter, so haven’t figured out how to find anything useful or interesting, so these help out a lot. I love good clean reads, but they can be so hard to find.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was raised not to swear. I wasn’t even allowed to say “crap”. Heck and freaking were out too. “Those are euphemisms,” my mom said. Then I started working at a newspaper with a bunch of men who could make whole sentences with a few conjunctions and a lot of swear words. I guess it broke me but I only do it when I’m raging mad about something. Not proud of it though. I’m not huge on movies or books that just swear for no reason at all. So I’ve been working on this serial story on my blog and I’m waffling back and forth on a scene where there will be swearing – not sure what to do yet. I think it’s needed for the intensity but I don’t want to get too crazy with it . I just want to show the emotion of the moment and the rough personality of a character but we’ll see what I decide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting to see how life impacts what words we use, how we use them, and how we feel about them. Personally, I hate it when a conversation about something banal like the weather can carry dozens of curses, as though it’s necessary to curse at the sun/rain/snow? But used once in awhile, it can really call attention to something and underline an emotion. I think this is twice as true in fiction. Books littered with unnecessary curses boggle my mind, but, when I’m reading something clean and a curse pops up, I sit up straighter and pay attention. After all, it was used for emphasis and I want to know why. Of course, for writers who are squirmish about using them, the impact can be astronomical and I have so much respect for authors who prefer writing clean novels, but still use one sparingly for emphasis. I know it can’t be easy! I really look forward to seeing how you write your scene. I can only imagine the debate you’re having!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, most, if not all, artists are said to be at least a bit crazy… I do the same, and I’m pretty sure I get the talking out loud from my mom, who debates herself in everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s so funny, isn’t it, how our cultural lines (and family ‘stories’) ultimately dictate our comfort/discomfort with certain things in the world. Swearing is something I’ve grown up with, so I swear occasionally, and don’t feel awkward about it. I think it’s that balance that’s the key, for me. If there was too much of it (like anything in life) swearing would probably bother me. But if it’s natural, and within context, I’m fine with it. I’m not surprised you’re scared of swear words Kat. 😂Lol. You’re the cutest! ☺️💕xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s so true. It’s amazing how upbringing is so powerful, and especially on how it even impacts daily speech. Parents have so much power! I absolutely agree balance is key. Listening to someone strong them together to make a sentence is annoying and confusing, but one of two added here and there can be quite powerful.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. 100% on the same page as you! (Pun intended). I’ve found in some of my novels that a curse word here or there just ‘fits’ the character and no other word sounds authentic, but this is extremely rare, and I think long and hard before leaving that word on the page.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! In this day and age it seems acceptable for even professional people to speak so crudely, but, in a book where each word needs to be carefully considered, it’s annoying and tiresome. Worst of all, they often add nothing to the story and I can’t help but with and shake my head at their use. Writers need to write like writers, not like ordinary people going about their day. After all, writing is a craft and an art!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That must be it. I love that Amazon have so many writers the opportunity to share their voice, but, seriously, go every voice should be made public.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so nice to know there are other people who feel the same way! There’s an overwhelming amount of profanity used these days and I doubt it adds anything.


  7. Everyone cursed in my family. It was hard not to adopt that language when I was a little girl. Once I remember sounding out the F bomb underneath my mother while she washed the dishes. Well, lets just say she went insane and dragged me to the bathroom to wash my mouth with soap. I remember first trying to figure out what the big deal was with the word, everyone in my family used it and the second thing was that soap burns. It taste horrible. I was careful after that. I was about 6 years old and ever since then swear words make me cringe. But you are right, there are some cases when you are reading a story that they do make a strong statement but we don’t need them every other word, that’s over kill.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an interesting reaction considering cursing was common. But that was my mom’s solution, too, though it didn’t work a bit on my brother and he started to like the taste. Cursing seems to be unavoidable, but it really should be used sparingly, otherwise it won’t call attention the way people often mean it to.

      Liked by 1 person

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