…And the answer is not simple.
Though times have changed, and many people believe F*** has SNEAKED into common usage much as SNUCK has, it pays to know your audience, and your characters.
If you’re writing for the religious market, don’t go there. Even if a man (or woman) of the cloth might think or spew a few in private, he would NEVER utter such things in conversation with the congregation! A jaw-dropping “WTF, Charlie, you’ve got to get your a** into church more often,” would get the preacher’s butt booted and your book banned.
On the other hand, a character like the one I’m working on, a gangster member of ‘the family’ with a penchant for prostitutes, would never say, “Oh, darn. That doggone Louie messed up again! I gotta talk to him.” Readers of the genre would wonder what planet I’d just landed from. (Exercise: Now go back and write what that gangsta would really say!)
“Wheel of Fortune” has a colorful prize wheel which contestants spin willy-nilly. Sometimes they get a perfect pick, sometimes they land on a ZONK. (Whoops- sorry, wrong game show term.) However, choosing from the colorful wheel of offensive language is no game. It requires thought.
The OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE WHEEL features:
PROFANITY (words forbidden by religious decree)
SWEARING (making a oath with the help of your deity)
OBSCENITIES (the ‘Jack Daniels’ words: hard, straight, undiluted by niceties)
CURSING (asking your deity to ‘zap’ someone or something that done you wrong)
VULGARITY (like using the Biblical name for a donkey and making it a compound word that includes ‘hole’)
Pick the right one for the right reason, the right character, the right genre and – YOU WIN!