Let's face it. Some of us use colorful language. Others of us curse. Still others of us possess a strong case of garbage-mouth.
- Using Colorful language is saying, "Oh, poop!" when you step in a pile of excrement.
- Cursing is saying, "Oh, cr*p!" when you step in poop.
- Using garbage mouth is saying, "S**t, s**t, s**t, s**t, s**t!" when you step in a pile of crap.
But when is it acceptable to use bad language in your writing?
I, personally, seldom swore until I got divorced. For some reason, all that angst and anger released a vocabulary I didn't acquire, unlike everyone else, in childhood. I discovered the f-bomb when I saw it written on the bathroom wall [at school] in high school. Having never encountered it before, I looked it up in the dictionary. Not finding it, I asked my mother for the definition. After choking, then laughing 'til she cried when I explained why I wanted to know, she gave me the definition. I didn't find an urge, need, or reason to use it for 20-some years.
Do I say that nasty word? No! Never! (Not.)
Seriously, I do use it on occasion ... But only when I'm alone or with a person whom I know very well and know he or she won't be offended. I don't use it at work. I don't use it in public. I don't use it in my writing.
Sometimes, however, a character of mine will use the word because it's part of his or her vocabulary. But only if he or she would be using it in real life. When I'm in line at the registry of motor vehicles, for example, I hear the word a lot. I imagine I'd hear it used quite frequently in the hallowed halls of a police station. An exotic dancer in line behind me at the bank used it every other word during a cell phone conversation.
I'm not one for gratuitous vulgarity when I write (or read) and, personally, find many stand-up comics both irritating and crude because they weave nasty words into their shows to get laughs instead of telling good jokes. On the other hand, when used to illustrate a character, and depict him or her realistically, I find it appropriate.