Censoring Profanity

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If you’re going to include a swear word in something you write, is it better to include the first letter and some asterisks, so the word is censored but people still know what it is? On the other hand, is there any point in censoring it like this if people already know what it is? Does censoring it like that cause them to think about the swear word more?

19 thoughts on “Censoring Profanity

  1. If you are using an indicating letter, I fail to see how it would be any less offensive to the reader; with the possible exception being perfect mollys who wouldn’t know *any* of those words anyway. :)

    It also ties in nicely with the use of proxy words. When I hear someone say,”That makes me so frickin’ mad!”, there is very little doubt in my mind what would have been said sans self-censoring.

  2. Swear words are powerful, i.e. they illicit a response of some kind. There is a reason they keep being used. That said, it is my personal belief that you can always express your anger or the point intended to make with the swear word, with other words. The English language has like half a million words! It isn’t like there are few options…..

    That also said, some stories need the use of a swear word to rightfully portray a crude character. In one of my short stories, one of my characters says the F word a few times, but in a dramatic moment, as he said it in real life. I’m not going to censor those words because they fit the character.

  3. Good point Dan.

    I think that if the use of profanity is an artistic choice, it should not be viewed as being overtly offensive except to point out the offensiveness as an idea with regard to the piece of art.

    Some things/people are vulgar and must be portrayed as such.

  4. In my view, the actual world is ALWAYS worse. I suppose it’s akin to simulated sexual conduct. Is it worse to simulate adultery or actually do it?

    I’d say the latter, though both are wrong. Same with cussing. Cussing by proxy is wrong, but a tad better than using the profanity.

  5. What about censoring without providing the first letter as a clue to what the concealed word is?

  6. Do you mean that sometimes the context makes it so clear which vulgarism is intended that no amount of concealing will really conceal it to those in the know? If that’s true, at least it conceals it to those who aren’t in the know.

  7. Can’t be neck. That would be ****. This word has three letters.

    Could be “eye,” or “lip.”

  8. Only if you demand a letter-for-letter correlation of asterisks to letters.

    (And at least half the people who comment on this blog seem to think “correlation” is a dirty word.) :)

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