This and That Thursday: Is it Okay to use Swear Words in Writing?

Nice graffiti, dude. Image via Foter

Is it okay to use swear words? Like with most questions about writing, the answer to this one depends on your audience.

Most magazines, newspapers and other publications have a formal policy addressing the use of profanity. For instance, The New York Times has a pretty strict no-swearing policy. But some argue that these policies are too restrictive and some banned words are not actually that big of a deal.

For your own writing purposes, you can really do whatever you want. It all depends on who your audience is and whether they will be alienated by or feel uncomfortable with swearing. I keep my blog free of any language I wouldn’t want my mom hearing from me (and no, it’s not just because she reads my blog). I am writing to a wide audience and want my content to be accessible to kids, students, adults, and other bloggers, to name a few. A large portion of my target audience would be alienated by bad language, plus what I write about doesn’t really necessitate the use of obscenities, so I just don’t use them.

To figure out what’s right for you, think about your readers. Will they find the use of bad language amusing, or will the be put off by it? Are you trying to make a point which is emphasized by the use of profanity? Are you looking for shock value? Do you have readers whose computers are controlled by their parents? Would swearing fit the tone of your writing?

It’s up to you, but this is a choice that can really divide your audience, so be careful!

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