Monday, April 26, 2010


Monday, April 26, 2010

Anyone know what we're talking about here at SIS today? Yep, you guessed it. Swearing. Cussing. Cursing. Foul language.

I'm a cusser. I'm not even shy to admit it. I don't even think about it. Those words just come out of my mouth. One of my favorites is probably, "Are you effin' kidding me?". Please insert the actual curse word in the appropriate spot.

Growing up, my parents didn't use the "F" word, but all the others were tossed around throughout the day. My mother loved to call people "Jackass." My dad said "goddammit" a hundred times a day. I didn't think anything of it. This was just part of their everyday language.

I can control myself. There are many situations that call for me to be proper, classy and maybe a little prudish. I can do it. I have done it. Yay, me!

Why am I talking about all this? Well, it all has to do with writing and reading books. The heroine in my paranormal WIP cusses. Not a lot, but it's there. She uses the "F" word occasionally. My hero also uses this word, though much more often. Recently, someone mentioned that they don't like books where the heroine swears and especially if she uses that word. They said it's too manly, very unfeminine, too strong. Another person pointed out that both the hero and the heroine use this word which makes their speech pattern too similar. Really? Everyone I know, excluding SIS Beth, both male and female use this word.

I've read many books where swearing is part of the dialogue and the thoughts. It's never bothered me. It never seemed forced. It made it more real.

How about you? Tell me what you really think. Do you cuss? How often? Does it bother you to hear a woman cuss? Does it bother you in books? Consider this my research for the day!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi


Chris #$%&*!@! Behrens said...


Hell no I don't cuss! That shit's nasty!
Okay, now that it's out of my system, I do let fly on a fairly regular basis, but usually not around strangers for some reason. Doesn't make much sense to me, but that's how it is.

It doesn't bother me when a woman does it or when I read it, as long as it's not every other sentence or two. I think most people have cussed at some point or another, and if a novel is going to reflect things that are a real part of society at large, then some cussing is normal. People are going to have their opinions about whether they want to read it or hear it from a woman, but in the end you have to stay true to yourself as a writer and write what you want how you want.

Mary Jo said...


Language that fits the character, scene, and time works, even if it's &*##$! That said, some first readers, think editors or agents, might not approve, especially if they promote certain markets. That said, I use words to fit my above criteria. In books and in my personal life. I'm probably less likely to swear like a sailor when provoked, but I'll eviscerate with carefully chosen language at will. :-)

Mary Stella said...

I use it more in my own casual speech than I do in my characters'. I think swear words, like any language in books should be used for effect and not overdone. It's also possible to convey characterization alluding to strong language, rather than always use the actual words which can, actually, jar the reader.

I don't think it's prudishness that turns off all readers. Language as a whole is so rich, colorful and flexible. Always falling back on a set of curse words to convey emotion or reaction takes away some of the magic of language, in my not so humble effing opinion. :-)

Mary Mckinney said...

I cuss probably way too often. I dont even notice when I do. But I do need to start watching what I say because my kids are picking up my bad words. I don't mind reading cuss words in a book, sometimes it just fits the character perfectly.

SIS BJ said...

Hi Barb

That's funny> I was just talking to some one today that doesn't like cuss in books or real life. She was telling me how she didn't like a certain book because of the cuss words.

That being said, I can cuss with the best of them. I believe there is a time and place for foul language,but it doesn't bother me.

Beth Ciotta said...

Hey Barb/Elle,

I don't curse in real life. At all. Think I'm a throw back to another time. In my early 20s and 30s I remember being shocked if I heard a woman saying the 'F' word and being offended/embarrassed if a man said it in front of me. But that was my upbringing and, after being in the entertainment biz and also living on the east coast for bukoo years, I'm pretty numb to it all now.

That said, I do think I'm rare in that I don't curse. Most everyone does and for that reason most of my characters do. But not all. Their vocab has to fit their personalities and background. My heroines Evie, Lulu, and my new gal, Zoe, would never say the 'F' word. In fact, they'd opt for words like dang and crap. Whereas my tougher, cynical heroine Sophie or my secondary heoine Nic, would cuss big time. Blunt, like it is.

I don't think the majority of readers nowadays are shocked by much language wise. I was surprised at how much I got away with in my HQN novels. However, I do think overuse dulls the effect of the word. As in all things, less is more.

SIS Beth --the rambler

Tori Lennox said...

I don't cuss as general rule. Although I do sometimes THINK curse words. *g* It used to bother me a lot in books but I've gotten used to it now so I hardly even notice. Unless there's a LOT. Then I find myself thrown out of the story by thinking "Is that REALLY necessary?"

My characters don't much cuss either, but they do more than I do. :)

Elle J Rossi said...


Thank you. I will stay true to myself and that means dropping the occasional "F-BOMB".

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...

Mary Jo,

I completely agree. You have to use words that fit the criteria and quite frankly, stomping or saying fiddlesticks may not get my point across. Um, I mean the characters point!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...

Mary Stella,

You said: "Language as a whole is so rich, colorful and flexible."

That one sentence made me take pause and think. Even right now, it is still marinating several hours later. Thank you for the comment. I plan to paste this to my bulletin board as a beautiful reminder.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


I also cuss way too often. (Probably) Though I tend to keep my language in check around children. I think that's important. They'll hear enough of it from outside influences. Hearing children cuss always makes us laugh at first, until we realize that they may have heard it from us. Good luck cutting back!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Very interesting that someone told you that. I'd love to know what bothers them so much about it. Some words aren't even consider "foul" anymore. Just part of everyday speech.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...

Hey Rambler, I mean Beth,

What upbringing are you talking about? We have the same mother. The same one who told us not to stand around with our fingers up our asses. I can't believe she only reserved that language for her later children. No way. Mom can cuss with the best of them.

You are rare. I can't think of another person I know who doesn't cuss. But I agree, applying it to the right character is important. I tend to like writing no nonsense characters. While my heroine may say crap, she's just as comfortable with the other, more foul words.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


I THINK cuss words all the time. I swear, sometimes I want real life to stop, so I can turn, look directly into the camera and utter a few choice words!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Beth Ciotta said...

I know we have the same mother--LOL--but I'm from a whole different generation. Plus, I was the first and perhaps mom was more strict about things... or maybe I had it drilled in by Grandma Miller. Not sure. But I remember being in grade school and having mom tell me that saying bad words 'cursing' was unladylike and wrong. I know she didn't practice what she preached but she (or someone) threatened to wash my mouth out with soap should I ever say 'bad words'. Somehow, someway 'unladylike and wrong' stuck to my brain like glue. Now it's ingrained. Plus I'm sort of a goody-two-shoes anyway. Oh, and remember things were different culturally when I was a kid. Women didn't toss around the 'F' word, at least not that I ever heard.

SIS Beth (the rambler rides on)

Alyson Reuben said...

This post is just too funny. And I know exactly where you're coming from, Elle.

After reading everyone else's comments, I've arrived at the conclusion that I'm an average cusser. I mostly do it when I'm mad. Sometimes I drop a cuss word because... well, there really isn't any other word that fits the moment better.

However, I just have to add that I've read some books where every other word was a cuss word. Literally. I agree with Mary Stella, that some words could be replaced with either a more interesting word/phrase or body language.

I'm not a super aggressive user of the f*ck word. But, yes, I definitely do use it. And, yes, I do have my characters say it from time to time. Mostly the hero and other males. But I think a heroine can most certainly say it when it seems appropriate. That judgment call, in my opinion, is totally up to the writer. It's their story, so they should tell it the way THEY want to.

So write on, Elle!

Elle J Rossi said...


That is too funny. All I remember is the occasional WATCH YOUR MOUTH!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


You said:Sometimes I drop a cuss word because... well, there really isn't any other word that fits the moment better.

I couldn't say that any better. If there are other words out there, they certainly elude me at those times.

We often get too wrapped up in what other people think or will think
of our writing. I think that backs us into a corner and doesn't allow us to write to our full potential. So, I will write, Hermit, and I will write it my way. (With some help!)

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Krys said...

If anyone would like a change of pace, I recommend learning cuss words in different languages and occasionally letting one of them loose. It stimulates your brain to learn something new and sometimes the reactions from people that hear them are priceless.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I think you really hit an interesting topic this time EJ. As a 30 yr construction veteran, raised on "the farm", I wholeheartedly agree with the use of foul language. Having said that, those that try to force the cusser's tongue for effect can easily be spotted. My own Mother would say "shoot" if extremely pissed while my Father had no reservations about the F word. In a brief 3 month construction stint in Southern California I also learned Spanish. The 4 letter variety. Thank you for my favorite topic EJ. I hope your F'n heroine and hero are a smashing success!

Elle J Rossi said...


Great idea! I'd love to hear and then learn some of those!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Thanks for stopping by. Don't worry. I won't out your identity here, but know, I know who you are!

I hadn't thought about those that try to force it, but you're right. There's just something about the flow that doesn't ring true and they end up sounding like an idiot.

I know some of "that" Spanish too. Let's chat later today and compare notes!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Kelly Moran said...

this is an awesome topic. i think it's totally appropriate in paranormals and suspenses. when in moderation, according to character, and appropriate. in contemps i find it best to say, she/he cursed. etc.
i do really hate it when certain words that aren't cursing but disgusting are used. like cunt. doesn't matter the genre. hate it.
since having my twins 3 years ago i watch my mouth, but i curse a lot. trying not to, but i just don't feel as liberated.

Elle J Rossi said...


I can always count on you to put it out there! So true, it has to be according to character. If it works, it works and those who prefer not to cuss, should just look past the 4 letter word on the page. Writers cannot please everyone.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

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