Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why I Won't Use Language in My Writing

I think language in books is a common enough occurrence. What I don't think is common enough is a discussion, especially among Christian authors, about where to draw the line. Ultimately, I think it comes down to personal conviction. (Which means you don't have to agree with anything I say in this post!)

With every story I've worked on, I knew going into it that I wasn't going to put any language in it. However, I had no idea whether or not I'd put language in a future book. Here's a quick look at the route I'm taking.


For me, whether or not you use language is not the actual deal-breaker. Light language is not enough to keep me from reading a book, and I've read a few with more than I'd brave again. What does become the deal-breaker for me is whether or not you, as a Christian author, prayerfully considered if God was okay with you including language before doing so.

Everyone has differing opinions on this matter, which I completely respect. But ultimately, it should only be God's opinion that directs how you choose to go about this matter. 

For or Against

I hear good arguments for and against using language.

  • it makes certain characters more realistic
  • it helps a book fit the secular market more
  • why wouldn't you??
  • it's only fiction
  • authors don't agree with everything their characters do anyway
  • language can taper off if the character him/herself becomes convicted
  • a little can go a long way
  • Christians shouldn't use language even in fiction
  • even reading language can desensitize you to it
  • God told us we'll give an account for our idle words
  • you can be realistic and not use language
  • if you can't be realistic without language, maybe you shouldn't write this
  • passive swearing works well enough (he swore)
  • language doesn't fit my target audience
  • my mom would kill me when she reads it
Again, I kind of fall between camps. Even though I've decided not to use it doesn't mean I won't read it. I do think it depends on the author and the story and their convictions.

However, I know that language tends to take away from a story for me when I read it. Because I've hardly ever read a book that used only one or two words in dire circumstances. If there's any, there are usually uses that I find 100% unnecessary.

Again, it's a matter of personal conviction for me. Besides, my current audience would be more likely to dislike language than complain that it's not there (is that even a thing?). So I think I can continue to build on my current platform without crossing that line in my own writing.


I do want to give a bit of a language disclaimer, though. Because even though I say I don't use language in my books and won't in the future ... people have different standards on what constitutes language. There are some words I could feel pretty guilt-free about using, but that's not the conclusion I came to when I prayed.

So while I can see myself using words like "bloody" and "crap" in the future, that'd be about it for me! Who knows, maybe I'll write fantasy one day and invent a curse word. Until then, I'll stick to passive swearing. "He swore" might not be the most thrilling sentence, but it's one I can live with.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic!! Would/have you ever use language in your writing? Why or why not?


  1. Can we all just take a second to applaud you for tackling The Big, Taboo Christian Writing Topic? Cause that takes some serious guts, which is more than I could ever publish at the moment. <3

    My standard for language in books was hard to find. I struggled for awhile about what words I was okay with using and what words I would never use. I thought about it and while I feel terrible for admitting that I never outright prayed about it, I do think that God lead me to a good place about the whole thing. As I see it, my characters probably will end up swearing. But if I would never say the word aloud, then my characters won’t be saying it either.

    I do agree, to some extent, that your characters are not you. But...they are a part of you. So for me, I only use the swear words that I wouldn’t be ashamed to see sitting on a bookshelf with my name on the spine.

    I let my characters swear more than I do irl, but my other line is drawn at the f word and severely bad racial slurs. A lot of the other stuff may be said, but by the final draft, the language will only be where I truly feel it needs to be because language is powerful and should never be used lightly or loosely.

    One last note, my writing is not strictly Christian. I wouldn’t label myself as a “Christian” writer because I don’t want to limit my audience. So for me, that can make the language debate a little trickier cause it’s so much easier to slip into a bad habit of language when you don’t write strictly Christian stuff.

    Wow, sorry, that’s like a monster comment of my thoughts. Hopefully we can chat more about it, cause I definitely think this is a topic that needs to be discussed a lot more in the Christian writerly world.

  2. I loved hearing your thoughts! I had a couple "almost cuss words" in my book and that is probably as far as I will go. I cut the words off half-point as the person was stopped mid sentence.
    In honesty though, I don't curse and I never plan to.
    My characters do.
    Yet I am real and my characters are not -- therefore there will be little to no cussing in my books. The end. ;)

  3. Kudos to you for being so brave, Abi! And I like your central theme, that it's a matter of personal conviction, which I totally agree with. As I'm sure you know, if it naturally flows (as in suits the theme, setting, action, and characters involved) I don't have a problem with swearing in my work. For instance, using language in The Sorceress and the Squid would have taken away from the story and been totally jarring and out of place, whereas Faithless is already an edgy, gritty setting and plot with characters that exist in an environment full of hate and vice - including in their words. So two totally different stories require two different approaches in my mind. It's nice to hear someone else say "it's up to personal conviction" though! This is one of the areas that as a Christian writer who doesn't necessarily write Christian fiction I always get flak for. :P Thanks for sharing!

  4. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this. As an avid reader and lover of books, I truly appreciate when an author does not use any bad language in their books at all. When I read reviews, I pay particular attention to see if there is any bad language. When there is, if it is not a whole lot, I will mark them out so the rest of the book can be enjoyed. I can understand the author adding bad language in a book if they are not Christiand or if they use it daily, but I can not understand an author adding language in a book if she does not normally use or if she is walking close to God. I have enjoyed your books, Abi, and one of the main reasons is that you don't use bad language. I appreciate that greatly...thank you.

  5. "Because my mom would kill me"
    Hahaha! Isn't it the truth though!?

    Love this post!!!

    I don't use languaue either, mostly because I see no reason to do so. I can be realistic and write real fiction with it for the same reason that I've never needed to use such words in my own life. I've never even wanted to/ been tempted to use profanity. It's simply not a part of my vocabulary. That's what people fail to remember .... it's all about your vocabulary. Some were brought up in it, some choose another way of speaking.

    I stay clear of all vulgar vocabulary including lesser words, or slang words that take God's name in vain (gosh, golly, darn, dang, crap, etc). I value respect and professionalism even in art, and so that's what I write.

    But yes, I'll read books with language without an issue. Though when it's overboard I get annoyed ;D

  6. This is really interesting to me! I've actually just been thinking about this because in the novel I'm currently revising, there is a scene where when I wrote the first draft I had one of the characters say a mild curse word. I feel pretty okay about it, because the scene is very emotional, and I definitely wouldn't consider it "idle". But I might play around with it. I left it in because I couldn't think of any other way to properly express the tension between the two characters - but if I find some other way to do it, I may take it out. Before this book, my gut reaction would have been "Never!" but it's interesting to think about whether there are actually times when it's acceptable.


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