I don’t usually get a lot of enjoyment from reading fiction that is laced with a lot of profanity. ((One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, and most of his works are notorious for foul language. I do love his tales, to the extent that I will read him anyway, and skip past the garbage as best I can.)) Such language is course and rude, and while the inclusion of such dialogue _is_ generally reflective of the way a lot of people talk, in my experience it usually only serves to detract from the telling of the story. I can deal with the occasional curse word here and there, placed strategically for emphasis, but as a general rule, I think that the inclusion of profane and curse words in a story is completely unnecessary.
It’s probably no secret that I’m something of an Orson Scott Card fanboy. Of all the authors I read, his books are always at the top of my list to read and to buy. ((I’ve even bought a couple of _Ender’s Game_ t-shirts and the mousepad.)) One of the things that so endears his writing to me is that he is able to create these rich, complex characters without ever resorting to profanity in their dialogue. I tend to think that writing cursing into character dialogue is a shortcut, a cheap way to demonstrate an aspect of your character’s personality. But I think that some of the best writing makes it very clear that your character just swore without ever specifying what it was that the characeter specifically said.
I’ve always felt that cursing is a rather “base behavior”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=194. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place where its presence ever contributed anything useful or productive to the situation. It only seems to take and never give, and this is definitely true of literature. For me, at least, my reading experience is greatly enriched when I don’t have to filter and sort out all kinds of dialogue that makes me uncomfortable. So, keep the profanity out of your writing. I know I sure will.
I have something against ‘Christians’ who drop profanities in casual conversation. It’s probably the idealist in me, but I tend to think that Christians ought to shy away from such practice. For one thing I’ve never heard a profane word that I felt contributed anything intelligent to a conversation. In fact I’ve always given _less_ credibility to people whose regular dialogue includes curse words exactly because it makes them sound so much more ignorant. Apply this to people who call themselves Christians and such people lose a notch or three of my respect.
Tack on another item – a lot of people are offended by profanity, _particularly_ when it is casual. Christians have an obligation, whether they acknowledge and accept that fact or not, to maintain a higher standard of living. This standard dictates avoiding such behaviors as are deemed offensive for the sake the maintaining a testimony for Christ that is without spot or blemish. To hear a Christian use profanity is disappointing because it tarnishes the image of Christ, whose reflection we are to put out to the world.
And before you cry hypocrite, let me just say that, yes, I place myself under and condemn myself by my own standards. I have something of a wicked temper – I always have. Unfortunately, I’m not perfect and find that my language turns a bit blue when I get angry. As often as I bite my tongue when I’m mad, I’m not perfect (how often I wish I was). Always, though, when I have slipped up, I recognize my wrong and feel appropriately guilty. Forgiveness is sought and restitution made as best as possible. Even so, I make a point of _not_ slipping into potty-mouthed behaviors in casual conversation and writing.
I don’t know if it’s a symptom of our culture or of our churches or both, but I _have_ seen a fair number of believers who seem to have no problem at all with certain terminology in their discourse. I know that some justify it by saying that this allows them access to certain circles they might not otherwise meet, but I don’t believe that a wrong makes right. I have actually found that by _not_ engaging in similar behavior it is possible to engage the same groups because you gain their respect for not sinking to those levels. It’s strange – as much as people have little problem with a coarser way of speaking, they do seem to recognize that it is a lesser way of it. And so when they meet someone who can dialogue with them intelligently without engaging in profanity with them, they at least take notice, and I have found that they often listen to what I have to say with greater attentiveness.
So, clean up the language, kids. I think you might be surprised at the result.