Four years is a long time to go without throwing down a good f***.  But the isolation of working as an Internet columnist and blogger will do that to a girl who’s got to watch which words she chooses to write depending upon the venue she’s jamming in.  

Today, many of the words George Carlin told us back in the day were too naughty for TV are pretty standard cyber-fare, though you won’t see ‘em here at BN’s Book Clubs.  Folks who gather communities set the tone for discourse, but also are wise to heed target-viewer preference concerning basic communication.

When I opened shop online in 2006, I took the “write as you speak” ideal to the nth degree, and let loose with joyful abandon the creative uses of profanity of which I’m heartily fond.  After I noticed the majority of my viewers using asterisks w/in written expletives – even when quoting my comments -- or substituting milder language, I got a loud/clear message.

Substituting a few shift+8s isn’t even close to being about choosing a battle; it’s nothing more than common courtesy.  And I don’t feel I’m being strong-armed by a jerk-swarm of viewers, although for some, limiting any word choice is anathema to the free-press spirit of blogging.

Authors make the same choices regarding profanity all the time when writing romance for a broad audience.  For instance, about a decade ago, a non-erotic romance depicted a very worldly hero introducing his inexperienced heroine to tantric and other sensual delights including digital anal penetration.  Yet this man who was born in the gutter and raised in London’s stews didn’t utter one f-bomb or word stronger than “damn” in the novel.  Readers’ preferences have taught me that many are offended by profanity, but not by depictions of graphic eroticism w/in committed relationships.

Yet today many readers also find the use of profanity makes some characters more authentic, and can be a huge turn-on in the certain scenarios. And superstar author Lori Foster knows how to create a hero whose use of rather colorful language helps readers understand better who he is and needs to become, at the same time it gives us reason to find him all the more attractive.

In Foster’s super-sexy and energetic new, “Back in Black  ,” she introduces us to big, rough-talking, smart-and-successful Drew Black. He’s president of SBC, a mixed-martial-arts-fighting organization like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Drew says what’s on his mind – usually at the rate of 2-3 expletives per sentence and at least one seemingly misogynistic comment per hour. His act needs to be cleaned up, and the owners of SBC have found the sharp PR expert to do the remake.

Gillian Noode knows her business is to get in Black’s face and to let the public see the good man buried under the brash. Yet the bottom line is: Gillian finds Drew’s dirty talk hot, and her feminist self isn’t all that bothered by it.

Why aren’t many of we romance fans troubled by that setting either? First, Foster’s a marvelously talented author who gets the bad-boy-within-the-stand-up-guy fantasy, and how to relate it with the perfect balance of humor, sensuality and straight-up emotional dynamics. Second?  She writes fun, always-positive erotic romances that never “take themselves too seriously,” even when dealing with real-life stuff.  

Check out “Back in Black,” and the rest of the novels in Foster’s SBC series.    

How do you feel about profanity in romances or other novels?  Will you stay or leave a site where profanity is used w/in posts or comment areas?  What does profanity in writing say to you about the author or commenter? How do you use profanity in your writing?


Michelle Buonfiglio writes daily about romance fiction at BN's Heart to Heart and Catch her Tuesdays here at Unabashedly Bookish.


by Moderator dhaupt on ‎01-26-2010 03:46 PM

A wonderful topic as usual Michelle. I don't mind profanity at all, in fact I think it makes the read more realistic to me because everyone I know lets loose with words my grandma woulda washed my mouth out with soap for using, but today it seems like it's quid pro quo so, when in Rome.

BTW I love Lori's Fighter series and I've read every book in it. I know that some people had trouble with the last one My Man Michael, but I loved it.

Thanks Lori for all the great reads you give us. And thanks Michelle for the great articles keeping us up to date on all our favs.



by Author MonicaBurns on ‎01-26-2010 04:37 PM

I don't mind profanity as long as there's intelligent dialogue that accompanies it. When there's nothing BUT profanity, then it loses its effectivness. Same way in a book. I got called on that in the last edits I turned in. I was a little too lose with my colorful phrases. I removed a lot, and I imagine I'll have to do the same with Book 2. Book 3 however will be VERY colorful. In fact, it's my heroine who cusses like a sailor, she sounds like Lori's hero, the profanity is all part of the character, and I can easily live with that.


Besides as I said on Facebook today, why is it that lots of people use 4-letter words everyday....WORK, DIET, JERK, BOSS, etc. Those are just as profane as the F-word too me! LOL

by Joan_P on ‎01-26-2010 04:39 PM


Well put Deb!


by Wolf_GoddessLW on ‎01-26-2010 05:20 PM

I honestly don't mind profanity because it adds a little spice to things sometimes but like she said it can be used too much and lose both effectiveness and flavor. I don't really see the point in using the asterisk because no matter what you do it is still the same word.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎01-26-2010 06:34 PM

I was always careful about profanity when my kids were little, but now that they are grown I've come to appreciate the creative use of "curse words" -- especially when they aren't used in anger. I think colorful language can make a book more interesting, but I am very aware that my personal taste is not everyone's.


I think a lot of the reader response relates to expectations. I love the way Lori Foster writes, so I would never be shocked at a hot scene or a hero (or heroine) whose language was peppered with creative profanity. But I might be shocked to find it in another type of book, or by an author who in my past experience was fairly tame.


I'm pretty open-minded, but I still find the occasional book that makes my jaw drop. Still, that doesn't mean I don't like a book that surprises me.

by CharlieG31 on ‎01-26-2010 07:37 PM

I have never seen bad language used in a novel however I ' m certain that if I saw the F word I wouldnt take the novel as serious as I would have, I do not care if there's an F Word on online blogs or posts because it actually gives the articles you're reading a personality showing that the article is not written by a machine or an intellectual but someone who is just like you which I like.  I try not to judge the author/writer because he /she uses profanity I think to analyze an author there are much more qualities to check on than just the use of profanity.

by donnaNY on ‎01-26-2010 07:55 PM

After reading the comments above, I realize I will be the odd man out.  I do not use profanity, do not see the need for it.  I'm around teenagers, some who use foul language so much, they do not have the ability to complete an intelligent sentence.

by Cheyenne_Catina on ‎01-26-2010 08:04 PM

i dont mind profanity all that much. SOmetimes there is a creative phrase that makes me chuckle. i also agree that sometimes its the author who sets the mood. ive read many of lori foster's book, including all the sbc ones, and would never be shocked to find some heavy profanity.

i do think, tho that it should not be used so much that people begin to think that youre incapbale of having an intelligent conversation, like above. some of my friends use so many cuss words that its difficult to interpret what they mean half the time...

but in books, im good :smileyhappy:

by Gaveler on ‎01-26-2010 10:09 PM
I'm new to this Blog, but I won't be a stranger in the future; particularly on Tuesdays, I'll be here to read what Michelle has to say. I have no problem with profanity but, like most of the bloggers, I hate to see it sprinkled like wild seeds thoroughout a novel because that tends to distract from the writing, and it makes me think the author lacks a sense of clarity or a feel for real life. Because of my upbringing in the 50's, I felt the F-word was absolutely verboten in writing and speaking; but somewhere along the way, my attitude has changed. In my personal life now, when I am talking with an open-minded female, I find that the word is arousing; but just as in writing, it loses even that touch if overdone. Now, think the early nasty connotation it had sparks a little of the innate attraction for the forbidden in me. Thanks to Michelle's comments, I will be reading Lori Foster's "Black in Black" novel, soon. I'll go from there. And I will tell my critical friends, "Frankly, I don't give a Damn."
by nomesque on ‎01-26-2010 10:23 PM

Interesting question! :-) I've been pondering this exact question recently.


I guess I'll take swearing with the rest of a book - does it fit the character and situation? Yes? Fine. No? Well, what's it doing there? If anything, I tend to get a little grumpy about characters who, in my opinion, would usually be swearing like sailors - and instead are as demure as a Victorian maiden. Feels wrong.


The reason I've been thinking about swearing is that I'm a writer, and my first ebook just became available on B&N. LOTS of 0-star ratings, no negative reviews. Interesting combo, and I've been wondering if it's to do with the (granted) huge number of swear-words in it. Us Aussies are probably more relaxed than most about all manner of naughty words :-)

by evanbando on ‎01-26-2010 11:19 PM

Profanity is used by characters in a novel who are not capable of expressing themselves otherwise; profanity is used by writers of a novel who are not capable of expressing themselves otherwise. You, the reader, has to decide which is which when reading a novel. Beyond that, worse than inappropriate or desperate profanity in a novel is when a subject on Unabashedly Bookish is so obviously an advertisement for a particular writer or series. "In Foster’s super-sexy and energetic new, 'Back in Black'..."

            "Foster’s a marvelously talented author...with the perfect balance of humor, sensuality and straight-up emotional dynamics."

            "She writes fun, always-positive erotic romances that never 'take themselves too seriously,' even when dealing with real-life stuff."

            "Check out “Back in Black,” and the rest of the novels in Foster’s SBC series."   


I understand BN sells books and this forum is a good place to stir up some interest in a writer or a series but learn how to do it right, such as, with a bit more finesse and a lot less back-of-the-book blurb-prose. Respect. Show some to your readers.

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎01-27-2010 09:26 AM

Hmm, allow me to play the devil's advocate for a bit. Profanity has been used since the beginning of time by many influential people and many great authors. Now don't get me wrong I don't like dirty cuss words thrown in a novel to say bring the word count up and I'm not a fan or obscenity but there is a difference between obscenity and profanity and if a contemporary author is writing a contemporary novel say about, oh I don't know, mixed martial arts fighting I would suspect a few blue words would escape those lips once in a while and I have no problem with that. 

Most of the people I know use profanity, not in professional or educational settings or around young people. But I see nothing wrong with it in the privacy of one's own home around one's peeps and family and of course in between the pages of one's own books.


A mid-fifties professional woman who says da-n once in a while.

by Author LLFoster on ‎01-27-2010 09:29 AM

Good morning everyone.

Thank you Michelle for the blog! I'm flattered to be featured in Unabashedly Bookish, and in such a positive way. :-)

And thank you to everyone who posted comments. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.


I hope it's clear that the point of the cursing in the book is that Drew does it too much, and it's Gillian's job to curb that tendency. :-)  As a writer, I have a variety of characters that interest me, and I try to make them as realistic as possible. Given different situations, backgrounds, and upbringings, some will have colorful language, and some will not. We have to be true to the times, the character, and the context.


One thing that always amazes me is the use of "erotic" to describe my work. I don't see that. Explicit sex scenes, yes, but not erotic - not in the way that the description is applied to popular erotic novels in today's market. The love scenes involve a relationship between one mature, independent man and a mature, independent woman. Nothing too kinky. Nothing too adventurous. But yes, detailed. ;-)


Evanbando, I'm sorry you took the blog as an advertisement. I'm sure no offense was intended.


To those who have read me before, and continue to do so, I'm eternally grateful! Being a writer wouldn't be much fun without satisfified readers.

My best to all of you!


by Moderator dhaupt on ‎01-27-2010 09:34 AM

Lori, so good to hear from you. I love your fighters series, it's one of my all time favorite series. The characters are all so different for being in the same occupation.

I don't think of your novels as erotic and I love the sex scenes. I love a lot of sizzle in the pages of my romance.



by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 11:43 AM

Hi, Deb:  Don't you think it's cool that we're seeing more realistic language in romance fiction?  Authors are being allowed more creative license as the audience grows broader, and characters are made more believable in most cases when they speak as folks like them -- or folks they're based on --do.


funny, mon. : )  I can't recall reading much of anything that contained 'too much' profanity, ya know? which isn't to say I'm a "there's never enough of it' girl.  Authors and editors pull out anything extraneous, and language that doesn't make sense for any character should get the heave-ho. 


But I think it's tricky to write graphically. Words are so powerful, yet we give them only as much or little power as is comfortable to us based on our background, etc.  So whether an expletive is within prose or dialogue, I think most authors choose those they feel are most authentic to the character.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 11:46 AM

Hi, WolfGoddess. welcome.:  You've really hit on a point that I've been thinkin on.  Sometimes we make a word more 'powerful' by 'hiding' it. And we know a word's just a collection of letters, right?  So why can't we divorce the emotion a word evokes from the scattering of letters.  There's the rub, I guess. 



by Moderator becke_davis on ‎01-27-2010 12:04 PM

I think we're in the process of redefining what is "erotic." It used to have a bad connotation, but now a lot of women are more open about seeking out books with a higher level of sensuality. Some call that "erotic."


Now, people in the romance writing business define it differently. There are terms like "erom" that the average reader isn't familiar with. Ellora's Cave, one of the publishers best known for extremely hot, graphic books divides theirs into "Erotica" and "Romantica."


As long as there is a strong emotional romance at the core of the book, I am happy. I've got favorites that have practically no sex at all and others that should have come with brown paper wrappers. But I have friends who are more particular.


Some friends of mine think books need a rating system similar to what TV and movies use, but I think that would just be a total clusterfuddle. Since I read by author -- which I never realized was unusual until I came here -- I know what to expect when I pick up their books.


Sure, when I pick up one of Lori's books, I expect some heat. Well, a lot of heat. But I also expect a powerful romance, and I get that every time. When I look back on her books, it's not the heat I think of, it's the characters and the romance. That's what's important to me.


I know some people stumble over colorful language, but I think if it fits the character -- no problem. And as Lori points out, in her new book the heroine is trying to clean up the hero's language so it's critical to the plot. BTW, I'm reading this book right now and I LOVE IT!

by Suzi_Queue on ‎01-27-2010 02:18 PM

I too love the fighter series. I think the language is one of the reasons it is a favorite. The language is real, true to life. Not everyone speaks in plain, boring, grammatically correct English. Keep it real, Lori! We love it!

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎01-27-2010 02:21 PM

Rock on Suzi_Queue!!!!!

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 05:41 PM

becke, i hear you on the 'know your audience,' in terms of 'swearing.'  I once managed to not please a hostess -- and yes, i feel badly -- by somehow getting her dinner party calling out all the creative uses, phrases and, most important, inflections as all relate to the Fbomb.  I swear I wsn't trying to egg anyone on.


Hi, CharlieG!  I like what you write here: I try not to judge the author/writer because he /she uses profanity I think to analyze an author there are much more qualities to check on than just the use of profanity.  'Try' is the key I'm liking, because it's admitting the truth that our enjoyment and processing of books generally is filtered through our 'stuff.'  In 'analyzing,' the author's work, you're saying, I think, that rejecting out of hand a book with any profanity is tossin out the young'n with the bathwater.


Hi, Donna. Welcome.:  Definitely valid -- not that you need me to validate your opinion.  But, so true that many folks hear profanity and mark that when it's used often, it becomes like static, and negative static at that.  Folks believe we sort of absorb the negativity by listening to it.  I think with teens who use profanity as part of general convo, there's some bad stuff being expressed about what's doin for them at home and in their lives. It's such a shame that's what they're left with, as you sa.  I'm not sure what your take is w/the kids you deal w/.


You may/may not find this interesting. The first discussion re swearing i had w/my son involved whether he could listen to a Green Day album of mine. He was about 8ish. I told him no, which he thought was unfailr because folks close to me were letting kids younger listen to it.  But we discussed the use of 'profanity' in art, why it's used in some music and writing vs why folks swear in general IRL.  And we talked about at what age i feel he's ready to be exposed to the words and process them.

Now, as a soon-to-be 13 yr old, he's allowed to buy music w/ 'parental labels,' because we've taken away so  much of the power of the expletives, in our opinion.  And while I'm sure he's trying out a few 'swears' with friends to be cool, I've made clear the rule is: If you're with friends who are guys, go for it.  But never let it fly in mixed company, even if a girl says it's ok to use them -- and never when adults are around.  We'll see how it works...

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 05:49 PM

Hey, CheyanneC! Good to see you. There are some awfully funny uses in novels, and even times in a book when a simply uttered mild expletive after a cataclysmic emotional moment (and I dont mean sex) can say it all. You read a lot of books, and therefore a lot of band-of-brother romances, probably. I remember the first time I read a Suz Brockmann and her SEALs were in a graphic combat sitch and actually were swearing like "real' men I know who've been in combat or military or harsh jobs done w/other men.  If I remember it so clearly, it means I was missing something in the 'cleaner' romance like the one i described above. 


A character in a book whom I think would talk rough but doesn't, in no way affects whether I enjoy a good book. Like so many book fans, I analyze a billion things when i read, and that was one of em that caught my attn.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 06:05 PM

Gaveler, I'm laughing at your Gonewthe wind riff.  And welcome, welcome, we love having you. I've got to say thank you for that description of the journey you've made and how you look back and see how things changed, and maybe even why. You grabbed control of your usage/processing of expletives in life and art, and decided exactly what kind of and how much power to give them. : )  I am so totally with you on the arousal quality of both using the words, and reading them when used correctly.


Hi, evanbando! Good to see you back again. In the spirit of 'transparency,' I must warn you that when you show up Tuesday afternoons at UB, I'm going to be writing about romance novels I think are the stuff.  My edict from was this: Hey. every Tuesday at Unabashedly Bookish, will you write a post about romance fiction?

That's it; nothing more/less. So feel free to take issue with or praise my prose. But like most writers, I want to be given credit for my work. So you can call me Michelle from now on.  : )

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎01-27-2010 06:15 PM

I was pretty strict about the use of "colorful" language when my kids were young. (We laugh about that now.) I remember cracking up when my daughter was sent to her room for some misdeed when she was 8 or 9. I was bringing up laundry and as I passed her room I heard her muttering to herself that I was "such a dammit Mommy." Still cracks me up.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 06:28 PM

Hi, Lori! Thanks for stopping by. : )


Suzi_Queue: I'm with you on the series, every book. And, yeah, it's the realism of the dialogue, definitely. It's also part of the characters' journies --  or simply the character of the guys -- that they 'clean up their acts' when chicks are around, even in the all-male bastion.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎01-27-2010 06:29 PM

lol becke.

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