Darn, Shoot and Golly Gee! What do you do when you need to express a profane statement as you are writing content? That is something that many writers struggle with on nearly a daily basis. There are so many occasions where you need to express something that someone may consider profane. It could be an actual curse word, or it could be that you need to refer to one of these words in a less-than-cursing manner—such as speaking of a jackass, hellfire and brimstone or, in “canine terms,” a bitch. Even those of us who are rather loose-lipped in our day-to-day lives may find it hard to add these terms to an article, even if we know they would add value. The most important thing is knowing when you can use these terms (or even outright profanity). These tips may make it a bit easier for you to decide when you should say “golly gee” or when you should go for the gusto.
- If you are writing fiction, your decision to use profanity is based entirely on the audience for your story and the characterization you are looking to create. Profanity, in this case, can add authenticity and vibrancy to the piece. However, it is certainly possible to go overboard. Each time you use a “bad word,” think to yourself if this is the best possible word choice, or you are using it for shock value. Generally, it is best utilized during dialogue.
- If you are creating a non-fiction piece, profanity can make an impact. However, you do run the risk of insulting or offending certain readers. Make certain your readers can handle the words you use, and just like in fiction writing, make sure that a profane word is the best possible word choice. When in doubt—leave it out.
- Remember, there are “degrees” of profanity. Dropping the “D-word” is significantly less offensive to most people than using the “F-bomb.” You have to make a decision as to how far you can (and want to) push the envelope.
- Heck, darn and the like are more polite substitutions for “true profanity”; however, these words have a way of turning a meaningful piece into something almost comical. It is generally only acceptable to use these words in very casual forms of writing. If you are writing a more formal paper, book or article, you will do better to remove the profanity altogether or at least go for the real term.
- One concern many writers have is if they need to use a word that CAN be profane in a non-profane way. This is personal preference. If you are writing for an adult audience, it is generally fine to use these words. The examples above of hellfire, jackass and bitch (as a female dog) are all words that could be used in a negative way, but instead are used in a purposeful, inoffensive way.
Deciding when to use profanity is something that is more of an art than a science. Great writers know their audience and use these words when they are the best possible choice. The most important thing is remembering that these colorful words are best used as a way to spice up writing—not used as a crutch to fall back on when the writer lacks creativity.
Tracy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.