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A Very Sweary Dictionary

When I’m editing or proofreading, I’ll use a variety of tools and reference materials in order to get things right. Along with spelling, one of the biggest things to watch for is hyphenation, closing up or opening up of words.

And sometimes, the technical dictionaries that I use just don’t cut it. Especially for the wide variety of language that we use in fiction.

From this point on, there will be swearing. You have been warned!

People swear. They swear in their heads, they curse at each other, they blaspheme at poor political decisions, they launch obscenities at the dog, there’s a tidal wave of profanities when they tread on Lego (other studded bricks are available but are crap).

And, because people swear, that should be accurately reflected in the stories we are writing about those people. Of course, we don’t swear in all books: The Railway Children would have been very different!

But back to Kia’s excellent A Very Sweary Dictionary. Why is this needed? Surely a swear word is easy to spell so what’s the problem? Well, people don’t just swear. The cover reveals just one of the problems that you might face when it comes to writing down profanities:

From abso-f**king-lutely to w**kstain: an essential, if somewhat impolite, style guide.

Absol-#######-lutely. People love to do this, to insert a -#######- in the middle of the word, which we are told is called tmesis. But my question has always been how to do this correctly. Dashes, hyphens, spaces? I’ve seen it all and, at the end of 100,000-word manuscript, you start to question yourself. Easy, it’s hyphens.

Wankstain. Made up of two words: “wank” and “stain”. So should it be two words? Or maybe hyphenate those? No, it’s as easy as ignoring Word’s ever-so-helpful suggestion of “wan stain” (whatever that is) and closing up the words to make “wankstain”.

Aside from the dictionary element of the book, Kia also helpfully provides some styling suggestions for swearing. The principles behind the decisions, a little on the history of swearing and getting right for regional contexts. There’s also a helpful list of ways to avoid spelling out the swear words and a list of useful other resources ideal for the writer and editor of sweary language.

To buy a copy of this excellent resource, you absol-#######-lutely must, click here.

Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

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Your Ko-fi donations help keep me blogging about writing and editing. They also ensure that I can create and provide free resources for editors and writers. Please consider buying me a cuppa!

Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.

To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.

Receive my newsletter!

Your support helps!

Your Ko-fi donations help keep me blogging about writing and editing. They also ensure that I can create and provide free resources for editors and writers. Please consider buying me a cuppa!

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