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Style: Swear where?

Some writers pepper their fiction, especially dialogue, with expletives. Others swear off them completely. Lora Bishop considers striking the right balance

Wolf of Wall Street © Paramount Pictures

Many years ago there was a BBC documentary about a writing agency, its at-the-time ascending star, Sheila Quigley and her extremely successful debut novel, Run for Home. She was questioned by the programme maker on the amount of swearing in the book, six words on the first page alone. Sheila made the point that the character was working class (so apparently would swear lots), that he had also been shot and was running for his life. Hence his internal monologue was understandably littered with naughty words. So what is the deal with swearing? Should we be using it in our writing and if so, how much and in what context?

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• STAR INTERVIEW WITH LEE CHILD, the multi-million selling creator of the Jack Reacher novels • Writing wisdom from the great Greek thinkers – rules that have stood the test of time • How to make your historical fiction stand out, and top tips on the genre from author Nicola Cornick • Study the short story masters to learn the art of the unreliable narrator • The magazine sleuth - how every magazine tells you exactly what its editor needs

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