Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Today, as I revised and edited one of my completed manuscripts, I noticed my main characters drops the A-word every once in awhile.  One of my beta readers made a comment that if the main characters uses language like that, you want to make sure it is throughout the novel, but I disagree.  My character only uses language like that if she feels frustrated, angry, or annoyed.  However, it isn't common in her language.  So, I have thought about removing it.

In a YAlitchat on Twitter, I asked about this very issue with the agents hosting the event.  One of the agents said a lot of cuss words are generally frowned upon in manuscripts in middle grade and young adult. Also, a critiquer of Writer's Digest commented that having a cuss word in the opening paragraphs of a manuscript will turn off agents and editors.

So, here is my question...Can you put cuss words in your YA manuscript?  Is it appropriate for a debut novel?

What say you, readers?


  1. I don't know much about YA, but I would think that some cuss words would be acceptable given the right context and that they aren't done frequently. I mean, a book involving darker issues like drug usage and such wouldn't be as realistic/believable with zero swear words. At least, not in my opinion.

    Some teens swear and others don't. While there are some things that aren't as allowed in publishing, I think that there are some allowances that do occur with such topics and for good reason.

  2. Can't see why you can't have them once in a while. I know lots of people who only cuss on occasion. and it's the 'a' word, which is on tv all the time. I didn't even know America still considered that a cuss word.

  3. I can understand agents getting irritated with writers who add swear words just because they can or for shock value. But I think you're fine using them as long as the situation warrants their use. I only add them to my writing if it adds to the authenticity of the dialogue.

  4. So true, everyone. In my situation, it warrants it. So, I guess I'm okay. My first five pages are being reviewed by an agent right now. I can't wait to get the critique back to see what is said about the cuss word in the first paragraph!

  5. http://ptolemymaps-meyerprints.blogspot.com/

  6. Hi, Malissa!

    Just wanted to chime in here and say yes. You can put curse words in a YA novel. My debut novel has an MC that swears like a sailor - I think she uses the F-bomb 57 times in the MS. It wasn't a problem for my agent, and my book sold at auction, and my editor never made me cut a one of them. This is mostly because it fit the MC's personality. IF it is unneeded or uncharaceristic swearing, I can see it being an issue.

    Good luck!

  7. OH my GOD! The Kody Keplinger wrote a comment on my blog!!! I am seriously freaking out! Thanks for the so true comment Kody! In fact, your wonderful agent was the one doing the review of my first five pages. She didn't have a problem with it. So, I guess it isn't such a big deal as long as it fits with the storyline. You are one lucky author, BTW! I've already preordered THE DUFF! Everyone else should too!