Bad Language in Novels

My readers often ask me about the use of bad language in my books. I do a lot of book signings at bookstores and talk to many readers, and the one question I hear more often than any other is, “Does it have a lot of bad language in it?”

The concern is often not so much a prudish one, but rather that it detracts rather than adds to the story. I had one man tell me that he expects a writer should be able to come up with more creative words than he can hear every day on the streets. I tend to agree, although there are times when the situation just calls for it and without it, the scene loses authenticity. For instance, I had a scene in my first book where a hardcore methamphetamine user had just lost her children in court. She wasn’t about to say, “Oh, piddle-sticks!” So she said something a little more down to earth.

What do you think? Does it bother you when you see a lot of derogatory words in a book? How much is too much?


  1. I agree with you… There are scenes that wouldn't be real without the harsh words. Not only that, but you are the author, and you have to feel comfortable with what you write.

  2. I think it is logical for a character to use bad language, but to keep my story open to a bigger audience, I get around that by saying the character “cursed” without actually having them curse or having the other characters react to the content of their language without putting it there in the dialogue. Also, even if I did someday use “bad” language in my book, there are certain words one just doesn't touch…

  3. Thanks for the feedback. I definitely try to keep it to a minimum and I never use it in the narrative, only in dialogue.

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