Should we be Using Vulgar Slang in our Writing?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 2nd Jan 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

Because slang has come into common use, especially in speech, sometimes we think it is acceptable to use it within writing, often to demean the writing or opinion of others, but it is here where slang can be at its most dangerous, but who does it hurt most? Often not the person the comment is aimed at.

A Recent Comment

In response to a comment on an article on an internet site one writer made the point:

    There should be no reason to use vulgar slang words in making any comment on a serious article as such a low calibre comment demeans not the writer of the original article, but the comment maker themselves who can be seen as an emotional fool with little value to offer.

This copy has been generalised in order to fit the needs of this article and has had suitable highlighting applied as appropriate for this discussion.

Common Usage and Speaking

Take a day and listen to some of the words that people use in everyday speech and we should be astonished by the words used - here are a few that have been observed over time and please accept that these are added here, in their original form, for discussion purposes only.

  • that's crap
  • you are full of shit
  • fuck that
  • what a lowlife
  • lameass
  • what a load of bollocks

Listen to two people talking in a public place, such as teenagers talking in the food-court of a shopping mall, and you will find that on some occasions all that is said is slang, swearing, or profanity with only the occasional word of real English thrown in for good effect.

The Dictionary

Taking one of these words, crap, and looking it up in the dictionary funnily enough finds an entry within it as having the following meanings:

  1. excrement, faeces
  2. nonsense, rubbish
  3. of very poor quality, flimsy

Yet there are two words that precede the definition and they are "vulgar slang", which we should pay very close attention to. If the dictionary is telling us that a word is vulgar slang then surely we should be asking ourselves whether it is the right word to use, whatever the circumstance. It is not denying that a particular word is in use, indeed the dictionary should be aiding the writer in their craft and not be used as a crutch for bad word usage.

Reasoned Argument

If you are trying to portray a serious viewpoint then no matter how bad or distasteful you may find another person's view you should NEVER resort to using bad language, slang, or profanity. Saying "you are talking crap" in response to any stated argument will rarely win any support, it would be far better to state that the writer is making a flimsy or poor quality argument. Just a small change in the words used makes so much difference. If however you feel the writer is making a flimsy or poor quality argument then it becomes necessary to prove it and not simply slap down the other person's words as rubbish, you must demonstrate an alternative and not simply assume it to be well known in society.

Making a reasoned argument takes skill and time, which can often be the opposite of the reason to use slang in the first place. Slang can work in speech, because it is timely and well understood by all present when the accusation is thrown, but it does not work well with the written word, which requires justification to work properly.

It could be said that those opinions that we are most vehemently opposed to we should treat with the most respect and not simply dismiss them with a profanity. It is at this point when reason rather than emotion needs to take over to ensure that a valid argument is advanced.

Stories and Dramatic Affect

With fiction then there is indeed a different story, and different rules to consider and vulgar language is often used to provide dramatic affect, although it may in some instances diminish the prospective audience for the work. It is certainly true that DH Laurence's writing was graphic and vulgar, and for much of his lifetime he struggled against censorship and in some ways opened the gate for many publishing on touchy subjects, like sex today, and certainly his struggles with censorship did not end with his death it took many decades to have his works made freely available, particularly in the United Kingdom. Remember that his classic "Lady Chatterley's Lover" had to be self-published in its first edition.

The word, provocative, could also be used to describe the book "Ten Days That Shook the World" by John Reed about the Russian Revolution, an event he followed as a journalist in 1918, but here the book challenged common western thinking and faced a inquisition upon his return to his home in the United States, yet still published his story against overwhelming odds. The use of the word provocative in this context bear little relation to "Lady Chatterley's Lover" but it was one of those works that challenged the norm of the age they were written in.

If you are writing a story then the majority of the use of slang or profanity takes on a different tack, they are almost always used within speech marks and are attributable to a fictional character and not to the writer themselves. The characters in a novel have to be portrayed as having a real life nature to them and the use of slang in their speech may be used to indicate that they are from either a particular walk in life or geographic region, one character being particular with the use of their language as if they were born into an aristocratic family, or being of high caste, yet another character is portrayed as salt of the earth brought up in the slums of South Chicago having a poor education, bad elocution and everything spoken is associated with bad language, bad taste and a general badness about them. The author here is using specific words to portray specific meaning and that at certain times requires appropriate use of slang and bad language, indeed if the characters were not cast as real then we, the readers, would not accept them or be able to identify with them.

Stories can have reasoned argument within them and here the character can justifiably tell the presidential election candidate that he is "talking crap" because it is in-line with their character traits and at this moment in the story to say they are "making a flimsy or poor quality argument" would destroy the characteristics of the player within the story, what is said at that fictional moment must always be "in character", unless of-course the writer is taking us on a torturous path through the story.

The Image you wish to Portray

As a writer it is always important to think about the image that you wish to portray, in some respects you have the world peeking over your shoulder. Of course you have the right to a viewpoint, even a vulgar and ill-informed one, but the words you choose will impact the image that you portray at all times, especially when writing on the Internet. Choosing the right word is a skill we have to constantly apply ourselves to.

For any concept you are looking to portray there are likely to be a dozen, or more, words that fit the bill and selecting the most appropriate one may seem random, but we should think of it more as a science, try a few alternatives and see which is best, but if at first we are tempted to use slang, profanity, or vulgarities then the chances are that there are better, more informed, alternatives that we should consider using

The Words we use Matter so Very Much

The words we use do matter so very much and they can change the whole mood, style, and perception of what is being said. Peter B. Giblett has recently published the following articles on the subject of improving your writing:

Thinking about writing? If you are then you should do something about it - your view is as crucial as anyone else's, the first thing you could do is ADD a comment providing your own thoughts and feedback is always much appreciated. Sometimes however your thoughts transcend the limits of a simple comment and you need to make your own contribution of 300 words or more; perhaps penning your own article is more appropriate, well you can make your own views felt.

Join Wikinut today and have some fun telling the world about your favourite things. Write what you like, then post your masterpiece and Wikinut will publish it for you, it can be that simple. Wikinut is regarded as the best on-line site for budding writers and indeed hosts many writers with book publishing deals, sign up TODAY

Tags

Astonished By The Words Used, Choose Your Words Carefully, Choosing Your Words, Common Usage, English, English Language, Quality Of Writing, Quality Writing, Slang, Slang Usage, Speaking, Vulgar Slang, Words Matter, Writing

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar Carol
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

I do agree withg you Peter. I donot use swear or slang words in my life or my writing,it shows an inadequacy to express oneself in the Queen's English. My parents taught me that, and I can't change now, no matter how old fashioned I am.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

Carol, I do not believe that good etiquette or manners can ever go out of fashion, yet there are too many people that seem to think differently and I wish those people would brush up their act if they wish to write.

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

Certainly good manners are always called for, but sometimes a writer will use a word considered vulgar which may be the only word appropriate to making his point (D. H. Lawrence, for example). Also, words are just words. They only become vulgar if you put a charge on them. As far as people making comments on other people's works, good manners are always called for.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

agreed!!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

Actually Steve you have hit on the one area that I had not considered the use of vulgarities for dramatic affect and here you are perfectly right.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

In this day and age blasphemy and vulgarity are sadly commonplace , and even though I don't like it ,thankfully I nor my friends adhere to either , but rudeness to others
only shows the character of the one being rude or crude, and to get in a debate with them with only add fuel to the fire.
Bless you Peter

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author avatar Judy Ellen
4th Jan 2013 (#)

I enjoy all your articles, Peter!! I also want to thank you for helping us learn the art of writing essays and articles! You are a great teacher, moderator and friend to us all here at Wikinut!!! I hope your New Year is filled with love, peace and joy!

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

I believe that expletives are used most frequently 1) in anger, or when 2) the person lacks a more literate vocabulary.

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

PS: Used, sparingly but with great deliberation by accomplished writers (Steve's example of D.H. Lawrennce is a good example) is another reason, though certainly less common that the two I mentioned above.

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author avatar Retired
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

I agree Peter, when it's formal writing we should refrain from using vulgarity in writing. Great shar.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

I like what you have written Peter...thank you

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author avatar Buzz
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

Well said, Peter. I agree. Have a great year!

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author avatar Delicia Powers
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

well said...

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author avatar Md Rezaul Karim
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

Slangs are popular here particularly in certain type of writings or scripts, e.g., drama, social movies etc, where the reality sometimes require 'slang' ! In other cases we need to be careful using slang, as it might offend rather than enjoying.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

As you say in drama slang and vulgarity has its place as this needs to reflect the way that people are in real life, but even here we should be aware that certain words can offend, which is why many TV programs come with warning labels.

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author avatar Xavier
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

Very timely and useful counsel. Thank you, Peter.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
3rd Jan 2013 (#)

I never use vulgar words at all in conversation or writing. They really put me off. There are better ways to make our point. I agree with Karim that certain type of writings may require their usage - siva

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author avatar Judy Ellen
4th Jan 2013 (#)

I agree with you on this 100%!! I see so many cruel comments on youtube videos that it makes me wonder if we live in a society that just loves to hate, talk trash and tear others down. This only makes the person who commented look uneducated, abusive and ignorant. Plus if the person's employer happens to see that comment it could hurt their job. Some comments inadvertently end up on Facebook too!! We need to be careful about the comments we leave and try to built up instead of tear down.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
4th Jan 2013 (#)

Judy, there is a way to tear others down that is done with style and etiquette. Having been brought up in a political family I was always taught that you may attack another person's ideas, but you must never stoop to attacking them personally even if they have a weak personality and the moment you hake any step in that direction then you have lost the argument, particularly when you stoop to swearing.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
4th Jan 2013 (#)

I would prefer clean and clear language that creates better vibrations and gives a better message to the world than the rude obnoxious juxtapositions that people think help in creating better communicative skills.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
4th Jan 2013 (#)

It also shows the kind of upbringing you have as slang just show a particular sect that you belong to. The fact: In India, people know the Anglo Indian community because of the kind of sentences they make, example:
That bloody house is damn good.
First - house is not bloody, it looks great.
Damn - well is a slang which contradicts good.
We were always given examples of these by our English teachers although stereotyping a sect would be highly ethnocentric.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
4th Jan 2013 (#)

In combat there was an expression "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." Soldiers are pragmatist. They know that all the praising will not save their lives, only the ammunition had the power to do that.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
5th Jan 2013 (#)

Jerry , you haven't read 2 Chronicles 20 verses 20 -26.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
5th Jan 2013 (#)

Wrong, Stella. I have read it, but that doesn't mean that I believe it anymore than I believe any other fairytale.

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author avatar M G Singh
5th Jan 2013 (#)

While writing good English slang should be avoided.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
5th Jan 2013 (#)

"Good English" or "Textbook English?" Isn't "Textbook English" what you really mean, Madan? Slang is very much a part of the writing for the common people.

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author avatar GV Rama Rao
7th Jan 2013 (#)

The script writers have started this trend in recent times. They think it is reality and use the slang words you quoted profusely in their dialogues.
However, writers in general and fiction writers in particular should avoid these words. I also think use of slang words shows bankruptcy of vocabulary. I, for one, would never use these slang words.

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author avatar writestuff
27th Feb 2013 (#)

The key to good communication skill should always be to know your audience.

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