Full disclosure: I swear a lot. When my kids were little they learned some real doozies from me (that I can’t quote here), and made up a few good ones of their own. My personal favorite was when my daughter was around three years old and exclaimed, “Holy f#*kballs,” when she dropped a spoon. I swear she didn’t learn that from me. But seriously, while I don’t think ‘colorful’ language belongs in children’s books, when my kids were teens I wasn’t worried about profanity in the books they were reading. I was glad they were reading, and given the amount of profanity on the streets of the blue-collar town where we lived, it would have felt profoundly hypocritical for me to say anything about it.
I recognize that many people are offended by curse words, but it bothers me when people suggest that there should be arbitrary limits to swearing in YA. I’m disturbed by stories I’ve heard about YA authors having to clean up the language in their books, not because the language didn’t work, but simply because it was YA. Readers are free to steer clear of a YA novel or an adult novel if they find the language offensive, but authors shouldn’t be censored. Decisions about when to cuss and when not to cuss should be based on what is best for the book, and there is lots of good advice about this out there.
- In Curses! Using profanity in Teen Fiction, Kira Butler states, “saying, ‘Oh, potatoes!’ in the place of a good f-bomb is distracting to the reader, and reads as insincere. Kids swear. Kids swear a lot.”
- To #%&* or Not to #%&*: Profanity in Fiction takes on the topic swearing in Middle Grade fiction and offers a checklist of things to think about when using profanity in fiction that applies to all genres.
- This writer asks the twitterverse if there is too much swearing in YA and gets some interesting answers.
- As I learned from my daughter when she was three, swearing can be quite creative. In Frak It All: The 5 Types of Swears You Find in Speculative Fiction, Book Riot explores some of the creative cursing that goes on in science fiction and fantasy.
- In this piece, a teen lets us know his feelings about how adults write teen dialogue including the fact that teens “… curse. A lot. We do not restrict our fuck and shit usage to the maximum in a PG-13 movie.” Yup!
What are your thoughts about swearing in YA?