Saturday, September 9, 2017

Foul Words in Young Adult: Do We Need Them?




 Everyone can agree that we all have a different opinion and world view, thus, a word I might think wrong to say, someone else might say all the time, seeing nothing wrong with it, and vise versa.

  However, we can also agree that everyone knows what a potty mouth is.

  Yes. I'm talking about that kid. That kid you know that can't say a single sentence without making some mother walking by cringe. That kid you know who has no filter. That kid who, if you're around young children, you feel embarrassed of their behavior and loud words. Let's all be honest, we all know this person. Maybe not well, maybe you've only met them once at a party, or maybe they're your best friend, but either way, this person is out there.

   Now, picture a YA book. Too often nowadays, YA books are turning into that person. I do understand that everyone has a different view. And I do understand that everyone has different boundaries.

  And maybe I am more sheltered.
  Maybe I am just a common homeschooler.
  Maybe I'm naive.

But you know what? Even if I am, it doesn't make this right.

  Since forever, words have reflected bits of truth. Words merely cage the truth of our society, and they mirror the world we live in. It doesn't matter what genre, bits and pieces of the author and their lives always, always seep into the ink. It is a sad world we live in, if the only way we know how to describe our emotions is through four letter words.

   Think about it. Millions upon millions of words are out there for us to use, but we can't figure out how to express feelings any other way than through vile language.

  Why are more and more books encouraging this? I pick up a YA book off of the library shelves, and am disappointed by the fact that the character is too stupid to describe emotion beyond cuss words. It teaches teens to do the same. How are we suppose to learn how to speak with clarity and intelligence, when the message we are constantly reading is that the only way to communicate is this way?

In the end, smutty words don't make anyone cool.


  You can say that word? That's cool, so can a five year old.

  You can write that word? So can a little kid, if taught.

  You or your characters can flip me off? Cute. So can anyone else, who is blessed with middle fingers.

  Do you see how ridiculous this whole thing is? I am so sick and tired of reading about supposedly “witty” and “sarcastic” characters that only have enough brain cells to know how to swear. And how “rough” characters are only rough because they can drop the f-bomb.


  Your character is sarcastic? Prove it. But not with a potty mouth. I want punchlines. I want laughter and smirks. I want epic comebacks that I can read to my siblings, while crying from laughing so hard. I want intelligence. I want wit.


  Your character is rough? Show me. Show me their scars, their skills. Show me their endurance, their weakness, their strengths. Show me their souls, because that is way harder to write than a swear word.


  Writers, readers, and everyone,

When did we start lowering our standards? This isn't how people are suppose to write. There is an old writing rule most people know: Show don't tell.

  When I read a book that has swear words, it is the definition of too much telling.

   It tells me that people care more about being obscene than clever.

  It tells me that readers and writers no longer know how to write correctly-that their talent, that once flourished, is dying.

  It tells me that people care more about money than morals.

  It tells me that whoever wrote the book was too lazy to describe feelings, so they cheated and stuck some foul words here and there.

  Yes, I am angry. No, I am not ashamed of that fact. Writing is dying. Emotions are dying. Words connect us, and they are being squandered constantly. This must stop.

  I am done playing by society’s rules.
  I am done reading by their rules.
  And most importantly, I am done writing by their rules.

Are you?



56 comments:

  1. Amen to all said. Well done, Gray!

    Catherine Hawthorn

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  2. Amazing post, and so true! I love how you applied the concept of "show don't tell" to this. :)

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    1. Thanks. I thought that it was a valid point that most people don't think of. :)

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  3. The constant swearing in YA is wrong for multiple reasons morally, I agree - and that's the usual perspective I've read in posts on this topic.

    But from a purely writing perspective, it's lazy writing! The author has decided that emotion is too hard and has used an obscene word instead! CHARACTERIZATION is too hard - so they use a whole bundle of obscene words to give their character 'personality'!

    Thank you for this excellent post, Gray - I agree with every word of it. (As you could probably tell from my mini-rant??)
    - Jem Jones

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    1. So true, Jem. I couldn't say it any better myself!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!! <3

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  4. This was AMAZING! I so completely agree with all of this. I've read so many good books at this point that are devoid of swearing and they're just better. Sorry. :)

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    1. Thank you, Faith. Books are always 100% better without all the unnecessary swearing. :)

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  5. Gaaaah, Gray, you got the point across so much better than the post I wrote back in July - the one that connected me to RW! I LOVE the way you write posts like this. It's so powerful!!! XD

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    1. Aww, thank you, Lila! All of y'all's posts on that helped influence this one! <33

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  6. This is awesome, Gray, and so well written. I think I'll quote you in my blog post we've been emailing about. Email me if that's OK with you.

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    1. Thanks! It's fine with me if you quote me. :)

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Ooh, let my try out my translation skills!
      "Aggressively have sexual intercourse with... this urine-laden... cow-poo... post."
      Nope, my translation skills must be broken! :D

      ... Trish, you have just proven the author's point. Your comment is profanity-laden but contains no content. In fact, you said the post was 'poo', which demonstrates quite a juvenile writing style. Please come back when you're ready to have a mature discussion, and have a lovely day. :)

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    2. Way to go Jem! Trish, Gray Marie Cox is my best friend, and we are both Christian authors. We don't claim to be perfect(and a quick reminder, we're TEENAGERS). Gray is an incredible author with an incredible story. So instead of shooting Gray down, why don't you pause and try and improve your vocabulary to words that actually have some meaning? Constructive criticism is appreciated, but not hate comments. Play nice.

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    3. Trish, I am open to discussion, but keep it civil and professional, please, thank you! Also thanks for proving my point. ;)

      @Jem Jones, I love your comment, thank you!

      @Elena, thanks for defending me, I was expecting this kind of blacklash, although it came later than I thought. :)

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    4. You go girls!! I don't know what Trish said, from Jem's comment, I can tell it was very rude. You keep standing up for what's right. 😁 proud of y'all. πŸ’›πŸ’›

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  8. Incredibly written. I hate how cuss words detract from story, as a writer many times the easiest thing to do would be to dump in a cuss word but it takes a MUCH more talented writer to not and develop their story with taste and talent instead of junk.

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    1. Thank you, Anna! I hate it too, it's so sad but true, most writers don't know how to write well anymore.

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  10. RW team, is there a standard/code for comments? It's sad that we need to consider it, but apparently we do.

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    1. We're currently drafting one, in light of recent developments. And thank you so much for your defense, Jem. We greatly appreciate it.

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    2. Jem, you rock! I saw what you and Elena said above and you schooled her. Great job. I hope people learn what real dialogue is because RW is growing. No one's going to want to read trash for much longer.

      Keep up the hard work people!
      Proud of y'all. <3

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  11. Amazing, Gray! I agree with you! Your writting is so good, keep doing it!

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  12. Hi, Gray. I saw your post about this on Goodreads and had to come read it. I just...I love you right now. *heart eyes* You've said exactly what I feel about this issue, and said it well. I appreciate it as both a reader and writer who prefers my stories well-written and profanity-free. Thank you!

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    1. Hello! Oh, wow, thank you!!

      Profanity-free is always the way to go, I'm glad you agree. :)

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  13. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I agree with you 100%. It's lazy writing, and it makes me dislike the characters.

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    1. You're welcome, thank YOU for reading!

      And yes, it comes off as so lazy, I hope more writers realize that. :)

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  14. Great post! Profanity in YA is so overdone and so unnecessary. Wonder what's wrong with publishing? It's because the authors often repeat the same tropes over and over again. One of those, of course, showing "real" characters by giving them a potty-mouth.

    -It's demeaning. I know potty-mouths in my secular job. To reduce their character to their three most common words is narrow and insulting. To say a young woman is defined by her *** mouth is to forget the other facets of her character.

    -It's crude. The more we read about people who do that, the more likely we are to do the same. Do we really want to become the potty-mouth ourselves under stress?

    There are many kids who are advanced readers and are looking for something to read next. I'm talking 8 and 9 year olds who read on a 9th grade level. It's extraordinarily hard to direct these kids to suitable books when YA is full of smut.

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    1. Thanks.

      So true. You are spot on, my younger brother is now reading young adult, and it's really hard for us to find him good books to read that aren't Christian... so I totally know what you mean! Thank you for commenting!

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  15. This is a great take. Despite the carelessness and even arrogance that often comes with cuss words, I love how you looked at it beyond a moral standpoint. Because people will disagree there. I never thought about it as an easy out for writing, but I agree that that's how it comes across to me. And the more language there is, the less effective it is. One or two words can at least show an elevation in a character's emotions. But still. I'm a fan of passive cursing. That way I can have realistic characters while adhering to my standards and not breaching others'.

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    1. Thanks, Abigayle! Sometimes I'll let a few swear words slide pass when I'm reading, as long as they are only used to show the most necessary emotion, but not often, because I don't think it is ever really needed.

      Yes, that is a great way to look at it! :)

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  16. Okay so epic writing, Gray, just plain epic writing :D I see people saying, "This book should have less language" but I never read a review that said, "this book lacked swearing"! :D

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    1. Whoa, thank you, Lisa! XD

      Haha, exactly!! Why write a book only a selected group can enjoy, when you can write one that is pretty much opened to any moral standard?

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  17. I know several other people have already said something but I need to add to it.

    Both of you people should be ashamed of yourself. Maybe saying those things might make you fell better about yourselves, it gives you no right to use that kind of language or disrespect Gray. This website promotes clean writing and young teens might read that and think that it's ok to speak like that or disrespect people. I hope you guys think long and hard about what you have done and maybe you will learn something.

    -Lia
    catholicgirlstuff.blogspot.com
    lilahsmusicals.blogspot.com

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  18. Also Gray this post is amazing!

    -Lia

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  19. I absolutely agree. Curse words don't add anything to any book ever. I was especially thinking about this after reading "This Savage Song". It was pretty clean, except for a few parts where the characters used really foul words. It seemed unnecessary and instantly lowered my opinion of the book.

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    1. Yes, it actually does the opposite and takes away from the storyline and characters.

      That's too bad about your book, it's hard to decided whether to like a book or not when it has foul words like that, even if it is good. :/

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  20. Thank you for writing this post. However, after considering your points, I think I respectfully disagree. I think I said on another blog post here some time ago that I believe writing conveys the human experience. Humans swear and use profanity, especially teenagers. Our hyper-swearing might not be the best part of us, but it is certainly present. I don't think this should necessarily be ignored, because censoring certain words ends up bordering on censorship. How do we define what is a cuss word and what isn't? I think that starts to get a little subjective.

    I also think that showing that a character swears does show a part of their character, that they are a bit rougher on the edges. I also read about a study once that proved that people who swear sometimes actually tend to have higher IQs.

    Finally, jargon changes with time, and what was not okay fifty years ago is now considered perfectly normal. I wouldn't say that an author shows laziness when they make a character swear, because that is a normal part of human life and that is what they are showing (regardless of a moral standpoint). I just feel like if books were 100% clean then they would be harder to relate to the YA audience, and wouldn't really correspond with the reality we live in.

    However, I see both sides to this situation and respect your views 100%, I'd love to debate about this some more if you want to.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, and being so respectful and nice.

      I do agree with you that a lot of teens swear, but there is also a good majority that doesn't, and putting swearing in books cuts that group off, meanwhile leaving out a cuss word or two doesn't offend the people who swear. And do we really need to be teaching young middle schoolers, who have just started reading young adult books that swearing is okay?

      I know what you mean by censorship, and I am not for censorship. I recently just finished Eleanor and Park, and it was a good book that I wouldn't want to see banned or scorned completely because of its language.

      But when it all comes down to it; I don't believe it is necessary to swear or use swear words in writing or anything else. If you wouldn't say it in front of a person interviewing you for a job, why say it anywhere else?

      As for the IQ argument, I have seen studies like that, but studies are not 100% accurate. Also, most people I know who have constant potty-mouths aren't considered intelligent by most people, even if they are. Why would you want to risk first impressions for a four letter word or two?

      My problem with "perfectly normal" is that I don't think this should be perfectly normal. If it is perfectly normal for strangers to shout cuss words in front of my six year old sister at a store and feel no remorse, shame on "perfectly normal".

      I do get the showing of real life aspect to swearing, and I've struggled with that. But aren't books suppose to help influence our reality? If we never stepped outside of the box, how would we do that? That's just my personal thoughts.

      I also see both sides, and once again I would like to thank you for your comment-you are the first pro-swearing commenter that has been respectful and kind in their argument, thank you for that. It makes me respect you and your argument a lot more. :)

      I'm always up for a friendly debate, thank you for your thoughts.

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    2. Hey guys, hope you don't mind my barging in :D I just like real though provoking discussion :D

      First of all - I kind of doubt swearing and IQ is directly related? I think it's rather this person who has a high IQ happens to swear xD

      I get both of your points - and I can take /some/ language in the books I read, but I personally don't believe that swearing is a 'good' thing or something that I want to do. And if the books I read have a lot of such words, it does tend to rub off, you know. Which I don't want.

      However, I can understand an author using /some/. I think it depends on the purpose of the author. Does the author do it purely for the reason that everyone/many people do it? Does the author do it with a purpose to show something? Is the issue of such language brought up in the book? Is it shown as right or wrong?

      I mean, if someone considers it perfectly all right, I don't have much of an argument for them - just that we defer in our beliefs. I'm not going to be neutral here. I reserve the right to disagree or not read your writing ... because I don't want it to rub off. I believe that what we say reflects what is inside us. And also, if I don't write swear-words, it's because I don't want to be an unhealthy example to those who believe it is wrong?

      On the issue of being real - I get you both. Like Gray, I believe that books should help influence reality. And yet, like Oakstar I don't believe reality should be ignored. You know, it really depends on your audience too? I think that we shouldn't create our own perfect fantasies, or versions of the world where no grit is present - but, to quote a friend, "we should show what it is, and then what it could be". If I write swearing into my books I want to do it in a way that reflects my belief - that it doesn't have to be present.

      I know that Gray basically would be against swearing in real life or fictional life - but Oakstar, since I get your points about it in writing, I'm curious to know what you think about it in real life.

      Lisa <3

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    3. Sorry for the late reply- I've been busy with school. I really see the points you're both making! I guess it really does come down to how we feel about it in real life as well. I really had to sit down and think about my opinion on swearing in real life, and I think I've come to the conclusion (looking back on how I've always felt) that I think it's alright if it's not directed at someone or used to bring down anyone else. (For instance if someone said shoot if they stubbed their toe vs. being directly mean to someone).

      One of my favourite books, The Humans by Matt Haig uses swearing when the characters are experiencing intense emotions. The swear words are used sparingly throughout the book and I think that if I do use swearing in my own books one day then that's how I'd like to use it.

      And of course I want to be respectful, I appreciate the messages you are all trying to deliver through this blog and people disrespecting you for a harmless opinion are just proving all your points.


      I'm writing this after midnight so I'm sorry if it isn't very clear or concise (I'm sure it's not) haha

      Oakstar<3

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    4. Yes, I also see your points.
      In real life I am constantly surrounded by friends and people who swear constantly, and it didn't annoy me when I was younger, because I was just use to it. But now it just feels and sounds so unnecessary and crude to me.

      I don't mind books that swear in moderation, such as the one in your example, although I'd rather it not have swearing. I don't think I'll ever use swearing in my books, but if I did, I would probably use it like that.

      It really is a "to each their own thing". I just feel convicted that I shouldn't swear or write swear words, and I know that not everything feels the same.

      I don't think swearing is needed ever, not in real life, not in fiction. Media has influence people so much, that it makes me wonder; if we switched everything around to where swearing was considered weak, could we change the social construct of society?

      That's just my train of thoughts.

      Thank you, this has been really interesting and enlightening. (Also you were pretty clear and concise). :)

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  21. Y'all are amazing. I'm sorry some people are being hateful right now. Y'all keep up the great work. I truly believe in this movement.

    Gray, I read this during my hiatus and I loved it. You're so encouraging. This post is wonderful. 😁😁

    ~Ivie
    iviewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Ivie! We believe in this too!!

      Goodness, thank you so much, that is awesome, I'm glad you thought so! :)

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  22. Wow, guys! I just discovered this blog and am blown away. I appreciate seeing young women with such refreshing, conservative views out there who are also YA fiction and fantasy fans. I've been writing for a long time and often struggle with how to balance my writing with my Christian values in a world that does not often encourage or respect them. Thanks for rebelling against the cultural norms!

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  23. This post was fantastic and so well written! Thank you so much!

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  24. THIS IS AMAZING. Exactly what I believe. Thank you, Gray, for writing this!

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    1. Why, thank you, Allison! Thank you for reading.

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  25. I'm a hundred years late, but I'm jumping in here anyway to say how much I liked this post. Great job!

    A method I've used if I want to portray a character realistically (because, let's face it, so many people swear these days, it's eck)--you don't have to include the word. You can say "so-and-so spat out a curse" or some such thing. It shows your readers another realistic angle to them but is vague and short enough that your readers aren't likely to even think "oh but /which/ word did they say??" like I know I certainly do (by accident) if the word is replaced with asterisks.

    That's my two pence anyways. -over and out-

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    1. That's okay! Thanks. :)

      Yes, I do that too sometimes, for villains and rougher types.

      Asterisks are just annoying, then I can't help but try to figure out what words they said, and it's never that hard.

      Great two pence! Thanks for stopping by.

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