View Full Version : Swearing in Query/Synopsis

06-25-2009, 08:27 PM
Hi all.

My MS has loads of swearing in it. Bucket loads. It is told in the first person by a lad from East London, so there was no getting away from it.

My question is this. I was advised to put one or two naughty words in the query, to let the agent know the tone of the book. In the synopsis, however, this has been questioned.

Any help here would be most valuable.

Warmest regards,


06-25-2009, 09:08 PM
My book has some rather rough language, and in my query, I did indeed swear. In the synopsis, I didn't.

My reasoning was thus: I wanted the query to convey the voice of the book, but it seemed to me that the synopsis was more of a workmanlike summation of plot points. (Not that you don't want the synopsis to be interesting to read, but that I didn't think it needed to be as true to the book's voice.)

And the query with the swear words worked, so at least I know it didn't count against me with many agents.

06-25-2009, 09:13 PM
Same with Redzilla. The synopsis is less in the voice of the character, so I wouldn't put any swearing in it. (Unless you simply know the voice of the synopsis so well that it's perfectly natural). But my query had the word bitch in it, and it didn't stop me from getting an agent. Just don't force it. If it sounds natural, that will show through. Otherwise, it'll come across as gratuitous.

06-25-2009, 09:17 PM
Ditto Red and Deadly Accurate. My query and first page both have curse words, but I kept them out of the synopsis. My thinking similar to theirs, the synopsis is enough steps removed from the book that it is less appropriate. The exception, though, IMO would be if one of the words is a significant plot point - ie, like a key plot point needed in the synopsis is that the MC uses a specific curse word that has plot implications. Then I think the word is more appropriate than having to describe the word. For example, "the 'f' word."


06-25-2009, 09:32 PM
Thank you so much, everyone.

Think I'll keep them in the query and keep them out the synopsis. The Query managed to get through QLH on here, so I'm happy with that. The synopsis . . . almost there . . .

Warmest regards,


06-25-2009, 11:27 PM
Life, I'm not challenging your text but I am curious about your use of the word swearing.

Do you mean swearing, as in taking an oath as to the truth of a statement, before a deity ( a very serious matter) or do you mean cursing as in calling down retribution on someone from/by a deity (again a very serious matter) , or do you mean cussing, as in foul language **&%^$#$ (usually a sign of a characters frustration in a given situation--or poor language habits)? Or do you mean all three?

Certainly all three usages can exist in a person's character. I was just wondering. However, I wouldn't use it in quotes in a query but I think I'd add that it's a strong element. On the one hand you don't want to kill a potential deal but you don't want to be seen as misleading anyone either.
Good luck!

06-25-2009, 11:49 PM
Just don't address the query:

Dear Stupid Sonofabitch:


06-26-2009, 12:46 AM
In query letter hell, we had a discussion on this a while back at Is it okay to swear (SPARINGLY) in a query? (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=125318&highlight=swearing)

You might want to look through it.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe