Let's Talk About: Swearing (and its passion)

The real measure of how passionate she is about something is whether she invokes an f-bomb.

- Golden by Jessi Kirby (aka: that book I love with a burning passion )

Trigger warning for the swearing this post will inevitably contain.

If you follow me on Twitter, or have read some of my negative (and I mean negative--like one star negative) reviews, and even some of my posts here, you'll know that I don't hold back on swearing. I do try to censor myself more often than not in the majority of my blog posts, considering the fact that I know a good portion of my readership includes teenagers who may be uncomfortable with swearing, but, the fact of the matter is that I don't mind swearing, and I do it quite often. 

I swear for multiple reasons--because I'm angry, because I'm happy, because I'm frustrated, and sometimes, admittedly, just because. But most of the instances wherein I swear can practically be drawn back to one thing, as mentioned by this post's prompt, and that one thing is passion. 

Could swearing be inappropriate? Absolutely. Although I do it often, I'd find it to be entirely inappropriate if I heard a eulogy where the word 'fuck' was thrown around every other sentence. However, I fully believe that swearing is one of the most blatant indicators of passion--just as blatant of an indicator as screaming (and, if you're me, the two normally go hand in hand). 

Passion is an amazing thing, and portraying how passionate you are about something can be affecting and powerful, and despite what others may believe, I find that swearing does nothing to take away that effectiveness and power, and can only really add to it. I am a 10th grade AP composition teacher, and one of the things I've stressed since the beginning of the year is that, whether it be in debates over books we have in class or current events, or in my students' creative writing, swearing is encouraged. Do I think that there is a boundary for the amount of swearing in a debate or a piece of creative writing from one of my students? Yes. But I honestly see no harm in throwing in a 'fuck' or a 'shit' every now and then into your writing as long as it's punctual and appropriate considering the given circumstances, and I don't see why most YA authors feel that swearing is an uncharted land best not entered, because 'impressionable teenagers' will read your work. 

Many teenagers swear. I know it for a fact; I'm around them five days a week, and I overhear their conversations. Hell, I know I swore often when I was a teenager--and 'often' is likely a massive understatement. If there is a 'fuck' or a 'shit' in your young adult novel, not only do I feel it will probably increase the amount of passion we as readers feel your character has for the topic she's swearing for, but as a teenager reading your novel, it's likely that they'd be able to identify with your character who swore significantly more than with a character who says 'heck' and other faux swears of the like. (Nothing wrong with 'heck' and other swears of the like, but I know very few teenagers who say 'heck,' etc, and I'm just saying that I don't think they'd be able to connect with a character who says 'heck' as much as a character who is willing to say 'fuck.')

This is beginning to grow into an endless and incoherent tangent, but bringing it back to the quote from the endlessly brilliant Golden, in my mind, swearing is a good thing. Swearing is not something to be afraid of by young adult authors or young adults, even though I genuinely understand that there are many people who are uncomfortable by swearing. Swearing is your friend. 

And lastly and most prominently, swearing often indicates the amount of passion a person has for a certain topic, whether it be in casual dialogue/heated debates in real life, or casual dialogue/heated debates in writing, and that very passion indicated by swearing often sparks emotion. While adding a 'fuck' or 'shit' into your novel in order to make your teenage voice feel genuine may only result in having the teenage voice feel forced *glares at September Girls*, a well placed swear, in my opinion, can go a long way, and just may have readers of your novel connecting with your characters more than they would have had they not sworn in the first place. 

What do you think?

Do you think swearing indicates passion, whether it be in real life or in young adult? Or do you think swearing is something that should not happen often in young adult novels? Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments what you think! I'm all for a healthy discussion.


  1. Nobody's commented? Hmmm... Well, I'll add my two cents.

    I don't mind swearing in young adult novels. If it's excessive, I do find it a bit jarring (though I'm not sure why, since -- in the words of a former acquaintance -- I can swear like a sailor). But it's not something that's going to put me off reading a book...

    ... unless it's totally out of place. I've read books where a couple of swears were thrown in at really odd places, and it was obvious that it was done solely to make the characters sound more like teenagers. I also recently read a fantasy/sci-fi novel where the characters suddenly dropped a couple of swears near the end of the book. Not only did those words not fit with the pre-existing world-building, but if those characters swore, they should have done so long before (especially given some of the events in the story).

    I guess what I'm saying is that swearing is okay... if it's done right. It has to be appropriate for the context, for the genre, and for the characters... otherwise, it comes across as a cheap gimmick to grab attention.

    1. There were a lot of comments, but unfortunately I changed my entire blog design a few weeks ago, and it reverted back to Blogger's comment system when I was using IntenseDebate, so everything disappeared. :(

      And I completely agree with you--in moderation, swearing can do no wrong in YA, unless of course as you put it it feels out of place whether it be of the character or situation.


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