Author Guest Post: Zack Smedley On the Use of Profanity in YA Books (Including My Own)

One afternoon towards the end of my eighth grade year, I was standing in the hallway of my Catholic K-8 school chatting with a classmate. He mentioned having to babysit that night or something, and I told him, “That sucks.”

“Hey!” This came from a teacher walking by us. “Watch your language!”

She didn’t even say it sharply, but it was a warning—a shot across the bow. I spent the next few minutes keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get written up.

Growing up, this is what life looked like for me most of the time. Eventually I graduated from K-8 to a public high school, where I was exhilarated to learn we could now say things like “hell” and “sucks” and even “damn it.” Make no mistake: none of this reshaped my opinion on cursing. But it did profoundly instill the sincere belief that adults—“proper” adults, at least—hardly ever used R-rated language except for the occasional lapse, like the dad fixing that furnace in A Christmas Story.

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