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Can you swear in children's books?

(37 Posts)
Wavyheaded Mon 14-Oct-19 19:31:25

I'm writing a fantasy story but from the perspective of animals and they swear in their heads.. I know it sounds weird, but I want to keep the swear words - should I aim it for adults? I doubt most adults will take it seriously! But I'm loathe to take out the swearing as some of my characters WILL swear, as it's in their personality.. am I overthinking everything? I want it to be a children's story, not adults..

Iggly Mon 14-Oct-19 19:32:56

I would be disappointed to say the least if there was swearing in books I’d bought for my children.

HollowTalk Mon 14-Oct-19 19:34:39

If you want to go down the traditional route, then no, of course you can't swear in a book intended for children!

Have you actually read books in the age group you want to write for?

It's confusing really as you don't seem to know the difference between a book for adults and a book for children! Everything is different - the plot, story arc, character development etc.

EatsFartsAndLeaves Mon 14-Oct-19 19:34:48

No, you can't hmm

SparklyMagpie Mon 14-Oct-19 19:35:06

What age are you aiming at? I'm not arsed about swearing but I would not be reading it to my child

Saucery Mon 14-Oct-19 19:36:24

Wouldn’t animal swears be different to human swears? Make up some swears.

HollowTalk Mon 14-Oct-19 19:36:33

One of the things you have to consider is, "If a customer buys my book, what else might he/she buy?"

It's what Amazon is so good at - when you buy a book there you can see what other customers bought.

You really need this firmly in your mind before you start to write a book, and you should do a lot of research in those other books so that questions like this are cleared up in advance.

rollon2020 Mon 14-Oct-19 19:37:29

Depends on their age, what is the target age for your story?

NetballHoop Mon 14-Oct-19 19:40:20

If it's aimed at under 13's then no, don't put any swearing in. Older than that go for it but try not to make it gratuitous. Charlie Higson seems to get it about right in his zombie apocalypse books (The Enemy and others).

CherryChapst1ck Mon 14-Oct-19 19:42:01

I'm not sure about your future success as an author if you are unable to grasp that you can't swear in children's books. YA then yes - to a point

Bucatini Mon 14-Oct-19 19:43:00

Do you mean primary age children or teens? You can have swearing in a YA book (my DS it reading The Hate U Give) but not a kids' book.

Pinkblueberry Mon 14-Oct-19 19:44:59

No you can’t put swear words in. But you don’t need to. A lot of kids books have ‘swearing’ e.g. ‘Bob called Bill a word that made his mother send him up to bed...’ or even ‘Ben said a word that rhymes with duck and everyone went quiet...’ (you can be much more fun and clever about it, they’re crap examples grin) you spot a lot of this in the HP books or Jaqueline Wilson stories. Adults will understand straight away, some kids will, and you leave it up to the imagination.

Howtotrainyourhamster Mon 14-Oct-19 19:46:30

What do you class as swearing? My ds picked up ‘bloody hell’ from Harry Potter, also noticed the word ‘git’ in there. This may not have been published like that nowadays though.

Probably best to find a mild replacement for the swear words.

Starlight456 Mon 14-Oct-19 19:47:43

Teens wouldn’t bother me. Younger children it would.

Bear in mind even at year 6 my Ds occasionally read to the teacher.

I also think quite unnecessary. I work in a job where I am not able to swear ( young children) so tbh I don’t swear in my head express myself differently.

drankthekoolaid Mon 14-Oct-19 19:49:02

Depends what the word is surely.

I always loved Ron Weasley saying 'bloody hell'.

bobstersmum Mon 14-Oct-19 19:55:58

In Harry Potter they say Bloody Hell!

HollowTalk Mon 14-Oct-19 19:57:50

But that's only in the later books, @bobstersmum, when the books are aimed at an older readership.

pikapikachu Mon 14-Oct-19 19:59:12

I think in the Father Christmas (Raymond Briggs) cartoon he uses bloody or similar which surprised me as a child.

If it's teens- fine but if it's for primary school or younger then no.

LemonPrism Mon 14-Oct-19 20:00:06

13+ I'd say light swearing is fine. Below that nothing other than damn or good lord

pikapikachu Mon 14-Oct-19 20:00:55

Or does he use blooming Christmas - can't remember!

TemporaryPermanent Mon 14-Oct-19 20:01:39

I used to tell ds off for saying 'crap'. No you cant. And I don't like blasphemy either.

LemonPrism Mon 14-Oct-19 20:02:15

@Howtotrainyourhamster bitch is also in hardy potter, as is arse several times

nocoolnamesleft Mon 14-Oct-19 20:05:23

I seem to recall the seagull in Watership Down swearing. It put quite a few parents off.

Rachelover60 Mon 14-Oct-19 20:06:01

I say "No". I use bad language occasionally but would never have done so in front of children.

There are other words you can use. Children will encounter the swearing ones soon enough, they don't need to hear it from parents.

(My son, aged 2, picked up two things from me which I never dreamed he would - mild by today's standards but still unacceptable/unusual from yourng children. Another post/thread for those if wanted but not a big deal in scheme of things.)

BertieBotts Mon 14-Oct-19 20:07:07

In Harry Potter the most frequently seen instances of swearing are "Ron called malfoy a name he would never have said in front of his mother" or "Harry swore as he dropped the book on his toe", that kind of thing. I actually have another book about the writing of it and either her or her editor, I'm not sure, crossed out a mild swearword, with a note like "A 14 year old would say something stronger" and I think it was replaced with a sentence like the above.

RolytheRhino Mon 14-Oct-19 20:08:12

Nope. No swearing in children's books. Had one kid come up to me the other day scandalised by a bad word in a school library book. It was 'idiot'.

IndefatigableMouse Mon 14-Oct-19 20:08:35

There have been animal books for adults. I loved the Duncton Wood books when I was... well actually I was in my teens but they are for adults!

IndefatigableMouse Mon 14-Oct-19 20:09:29

But certainly I’d be very surprised to have swear words in books like Redwall (fantasy animals, mostly mice, for kids), they probably have toned down frustration words though.

Cuddling57 Mon 14-Oct-19 20:11:11


Witchend Mon 14-Oct-19 22:31:14

I would suggest it depends on the book and the age range.

If you look at Alex Rider, for example, it would normally say "Alex swore."
Cherub would use the actual words, which is one of several reasons why I would advise parents look at it before giving them to their dc, and I would not recommend it for under 11yo, whereas Alex Rider I'd say from about age 9yo.

Personally I think most of the reasons why I would recommend a parent looks at the Cherub books including the swearing, are to the detriment of the book. It comes across to me as the author trying a bit to hard to sound "cool and down wiv the youf"

I think the "Bloody Hell" in Harry Potter weren't in the books, but in the movies. And actually I read somewhere that they weren't scripted, but they asked the children to improvise at points and that was the actor who played Ron's standard way of expressing surprise/shock/horror.

EmperorBallpitine Mon 14-Oct-19 22:36:38

@witchend I remember my friend being annoyed her 12yo dd had read about a sex act in Cherub.
Absolutely no swearing in middle grade fiction. YA fiction can contain swearing but only if it suits the themes and setting, so, a griity rough urban drama for teens might be OK.
In the context of your book, I'd say find a voice for the ruder animals that doesn't include the actual swearing but conveys their character.

dangerrabbit Mon 14-Oct-19 22:39:01

Go the Fuck to Sleep Read by Samuel L Jackson

Witchend Mon 14-Oct-19 23:22:12

@EmperorBallpitine I agree. James is 12yo at the beginning and is very much a womaniser (although the various women usually get their revenge) already. That's one of the weak points. It's very much about the boobs and sex with him, rather than making it a romance that builds up. (even though he ends up with the girl he is after in the first book, he's gone through several girls in the process)
Then they drink and smoke a lot. To me that was totally unrealistic. They're a training site. They're mad keen on fitness. They would not want them smoking, and definitely not want them drunk in case they gave things away. But the instructors are described as turning a blind eye to it.
Far better for them to have lessons to appear as though they're drinking/smoking but not actually, as they do have to be in situations where it would be odd if they don't.

To me they are the weak points of an excellent set of books that 2 of my dc loved.
Interestingly the author wrote some prequels (Henderson boys) and in those the above (plus swearing) feel much more natural and less trying to appear cool. I think it's partially that it isn't an organised group most of the time, but also it's set during WWII, and things were different.

1066vegan Mon 14-Oct-19 23:37:33

Of course you shouldn't swear in a children's book. I can't believe that anyone would even have to ask this.

Zilla1 Wed 20-Nov-19 13:34:46

"Oh carrots!" said Bunny.
"Cabbages!" replied Guineapig, also angry with Mouse.
"Squeak!" Mouse shouted, well as loud as a mouse could and she ran off.

Gallivespian Wed 20-Nov-19 19:31:25

Enid Blyton characters say ‘Oh, blow!’ quite a lot.

GeorgeTheFirst Wed 20-Nov-19 19:36:39

Of course not

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