Swashbuckling Wallace Beery. Action hero John Wayne. Dedicated cop Jack Webb. Fast-draw U.S. marshal James Arness. The characters they portrayed would in all likelihood in real life have used some pretty vulgar language in their day-by-day professional duties . . . language they also would likely not have used around their mothers or at church socials. The screenwriters also largely kept vulgarities out of the TV scripts. And the screen characters were no less authentic.
Many authors also write exciting, believable books without using body parts, bodily functions, and revered religious figures as expletives. Morris West, P.T. Duetermann, and
The author website, MyBookCave, notes that some writers believe “using profanity makes their writing more authentic and powerful,” while others believe that “the use of vulgarity quickly becomes a cheap, convenient device to give the impression that the book is up-to-date and realistic.” To quote Lee Child again: “If you over-use profanity, it can dilute its power and it can make you, the writer, look inauthentic.” There are always possible alternatives to crudity. A creative author will explore and use them.
There are many readers who are put off by being f-bombed on almost every page. But while vulgar words are simply vulgar words, a primary offense is the use of Jesus Christ (and any of its derivatives) as a commensurate alternative to other common vulgarities. Christianity is the basis of faith for millions around the world, and to use the name of the founding figure as a common expletive, with no regard for those who hold it dear, is unconscionable. It is not done with Moses or Mohammed or Krishna, so why with Jesus? Some authors could care less about offending anyone, which is their prerogative. But for those who do care, consideration ought be given to the adherents of one of the world’s major faiths.
I am no prude. Every now and then a salty word can be appropriate, even helpful, either in verbal speech or in writing. But overdoing profanity tends to ruin a good book, and using Jesus as a swear word demeans the author who exhibits such insensitivity.