Swearing in stories

Hey,
I decided to put this question here because I know cursing can be sensitive for some. If this is the wrong category then I apologize.

I am writing an 18+ story (I tend to attach that label because of mature themes) hopefully to share on here, quite a zany post-apocalyptic setting with a definite amount of satire. My sense of humour is very much in the dark humour category. Now swearing is not that common in some parts for in-story reasons, but there are definitely going to be times when hard talking characters would almost certainly curse quite vehemently.

Why I ask is that I am British where swearing is not a particularly major thing, for the most part anyway. I am aware, however, it can be more sensitive for some other English speaking nationalities. So I am hoping to ask advise and recommendations.

Would people prefer the option to **** out swearing for instance? I experimented with minced oaths and I am not sure it would really carry much weight in the context.

Thank you for taking the time to read this query. :slight_smile:

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I think you should just put a Warning at the beginning with swearing adult themes. And dark themes.

Then people choose if the game is for them or not.

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I was considering the exact same thing yesterday. I have one character who is liable to swear, but only in certain situations (you have the options to push their buttons a little). In the end I concluded that loads of people swear in real life and that it’s disingenuous to the character to make them say “Oh sugar!” instead.

I appreciate that some people just don’t like swearing and don’t want to read it, so I think the idea to have an option for players to **** it is a good one (looks like I’m going to have to cave in and use some multi replace)

I think that context is also really important when considering the severity of swearing, there’s a big difference between a character saying “Oh, ****, this is going to be bad” and “You are such a ****”.
At least in my mind any way.

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I’m also British and I think censoring swear words is cheesy - just stick some content writing at the beginning and you should be gucci :grinning:

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I am Spanish and for us the censorship of swears… It is ridiculous. We take it as a joke. So, I just lost my immersion completely.

I mean if I game is targeted Adult and has a warning It doesn’t need a a censorship ****.

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The questions you really want to be able to answer are:

  • How many people see a swear word in the text, get offended and close the game?
  • How many people see a content warning for swearing and decide not to play the game?
  • How many people would play a game, they otherwise wouldn’t have, if they had the option to turn it off in some way
  • How much do you care?

If you’re only interested in writing the story you want to, then crack on precisely as you want to.
If you want to market your game as widely as possible, then it’s one (of amongst many) thing(s) you could consider putting in the effort to code and write to broaden your appeal.

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I always like swearing on games bc it make it more real or to relate bc if something goes wrong saying a swear word is nornal

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I don’t mind it one way or another - swearing is fine, it often makes feel the story more natural, especially if you have characters you’d expect to see swearing.
That being said, I don’t mind if no swear words are used at all either, because it’s a writting choice, and a lot of stories avoid that, so I’m used to it.

All in all, I think it’s best to simply leave the swearing in and put a warning at the beginning. If it’s a 18+ story, you’ll probably have other warnings too anyway, so just add that one to the list.
I’ve seen 16+ games that had swearing, so really, you shouldn’t worry.

I think the only thing you should avoid is ***'ing the swear words. That’s… AWFUL!
I’ve played ONE game that did that - and it was a visual novel, meaning less prose and more dialogue, and it was already so bad and so distracting. I can’t imagine it in an entirely text based game.

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I took so long trying to figure out what *** was censoring, ha. Which is exactly the problem with them: they’re unclear. I also think it’s a bit silly (and unprofessional-looking in prose) to have them in places where swearing is acceptable, like a book or an adult show. Just use the actual swear words.

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Don’t see anything wrong with swearing as long as a warning is there. It doesn’t really even take away from the game.

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Fuck it. Just put a warning label for harsh language and then swear all you want.

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Personally, I don’t think swearing is that big of a deal and I like that swearing can be used in a wide range of circumstances from joking around with someone to helping a person express their emotions with just one word.

Also, in the context of 18+ stories/games, I think it’s just something that would come with the territory and it can be a bit odd if it’s not there.

Now with that being said it all comes down to different strokes for different folks for example how some people are fine with sexual content but not gore where some people are the complete opposite so personally, I would say either let people pick for it to be an option or maybe let them pick the swear(s) used in-game.

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I don’t see it as a big deal I actually swear quite a bit irl but that’s just me plus i think if it fits the character and something happening to them go for it I say. Also are there any wip links for the story’s mentioned above?

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As others have pointed out, self-censoring using asterisks looks unprofessional. Not only can I not think of a single book I’ve read that does that, but I’ve also never seen such censorship in a CoG/Hosted Games either. In fact, I’ve only ever seen this in online fiction and fan-fiction, hence why it seems unprofessional.

If you’re already writing a mature book with adult themes, then I don’t see any reason why you would censor the language. Surely there will be other mature and/or potentially offensive material in the narrative itself, yet you don’t ask about censoring that, presumably because you realize that censoring that would detract from your story. I would argue that self-censorship would do the same.

That said, if you are still concerned about offending readers, you can either post a warning, or you can even try to make a toggle. If you make every swear its own variable, you can use multireplace for minced swears or for outright censorship/bleeping.

Another option is to embrace the censorship. I mean, you’re writing a zany post-apocalyptic zombiefest. I’m sure you could get away with some absolutely ridiculous versions of swears. Get creative with it!
Heck, you can even imply that these characters are fully aware of the existence of harder swear words, but have a running gag where they’re cut off or interrupted every time they’re about to swear for real.

And if you’re doing satire of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre, then you can even lampshade it as the adults wanting to preserve the innocence of the inevitable innocent child character. Bonus points if the child probably swears like a sailor themselves.

In short, I think censoring with asterisks is a cop-out and if you do decide to censor your story’s language, then get creative with it. Writing is an art, after all.

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Like a lot of stories, how much profanity and even what types of profanity you use are honestly dependent on the tone of the narrative, how some of the characters are written, etc. It’s not uncommon for most of the profanity in the story to come from one or two characters, for instance.

Honestly, I’d say use your discretion, but unless you’re going for a “grindhouse” tone, err on the side of caution with profanity. If it doesn’t enhance the intensity of the sentence or break up the mood in a way that isn’t jarring, you can probably stand to cut it.

As for censorship: I’d say either minced oaths, or no swearing, is preferable to “symbol swearing” outside of intentionally wacky narratives. And if you do use symbol swearing, something like “f^*k” or “$#!+” is more visually interesting than just ****

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Irl I never swear, and I never write swears in my stories. However, when there is swearing in other people’s works, I’m totally cool with it. Even though I don’t necessarily like swearing, I still don’t feel like it needs to be censored. Just put a warning at the beginning and then write what you like :grin:

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I grew up in an environment where swearing was not a big deal. So, my characters tend to swear. That’s just what feels normal and natural to me. In my WIP I put a warning for strong language at the start so anyone who doesn’t want to see that can choose to play a different game. I think it works.

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Thank you for all your replies it has given me food for thought. I mainly wanted to check because I have a concern for people being triggered needlessly. Even when writing a darker setting, and different people have very different things that trigger them so it is not always obvious. I almost never swear personally, but I am pretty used to it.

As I say thank you all for your input.

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Yeah, good point about the symbols. There are going to be a lot of them in the narrative already as it definitely goes more for the wacky side. Thank you for your input.

I feel I like to find a balance just because something has darker themes it does not have to be off-putting so I know what you mean about caution. I think people also forget that in different cultures some swear words are far more offensive. There are certain words I could have someone use in an English context that would be very much not okay for an American audience for example.

As you say, different things can trigger and aside from putting content warning before your game for the most obvious themes, there’s nothing you can do - someone could get triggered by a swearword or by a description of a carpet. Someone could get triggered by an otherwise innocuous relationship that reminded them of their abusive one. I invite you not to stress needlessly about it because it’s well out of your control.

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