I have just sold a new story to Asimov’s called ‘Two Thieves’. The only revision requested was could I please reduce the number of times I used the word ‘fuck’ or ‘fucking’. Well the story concerns two rough characters, who would swear a lot, and that’s why I had sprinkled their talk with these words, words which I also feel free to use myself fairly frequently in speech. But I ended up not just cutting them down but taking them out altogether and was actually quite pleased to do so.
I remember David Pringle of Interzone once said in a similar situation that swearing carries a different weight on the page than it does in speech. In writing dialogue we can’t simply recreate speech as it is spoken. I think that is true. We don’t for example reproduce the number of unfinished sentences, grammatical errors, and mis-speakings of words that actually occur in spontaneous speech. To create the impression of ordinary speech we actually have to do something other than simply mimic it. (In the same way, perhaps, that to create the impression of ordinary hands, cartoon animators have to draw hands with less than five fingers. Or so I have heard.)