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The Birth of “Cursing with Style: A Dicktionary of Expletives”

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

When I was growing up, my dad cursed a lot. My mom hated it; she’d always try to get my dad to stop, but he never did. Fast-forward three or four decades, and now I curse a lot too.

Erika in her home office posing next to her book, Cursing with Style
Photography by Keith Kapaldo (Erika's home office, Everett, Wash.)

My book began as a style sheet—a spreadsheet of terms—that I would refer to and add to while editing manuscripts with salty language. If you don’t know what a style sheet is, please read my blog post “Style sheets: What are they, and do I need one?” When I couldn’t find a word on my list, I’d look it up and add it to my style sheet. There are plenty of sweary dictionaries out there, and I’ve sifted through quite a few during my time as a book editor. But I needed something more all-inclusive and specific to American English, so I decided to write a dicktionary of expletives.

At first, my book was meant solely for me. But then I spoke with a fellow editor about it, and they loved the idea, adding that I should make my book available to the entire editing community. So, after ruminating on it a bit, I decided not to keep the book to myself. I couldn’t be the only editor—or writer—in need of a dicktionary of expletives. Hence, Cursing with Style was born.

When I finished self-editing my book for the fifth or sixth—or hundredth—time, I contacted my most trusted editorial colleague and asked if they would be interested in editing my dicktionary. (I hadn’t coined the term dicktionary at that point.) They said yes, and what follows are never-before-seen images of the editing process:

Image 1:

I don’t know about other authors, but I like it when my editor gives me compliments.

Image 2:

The Remarks in the book differ greatly from what you see in this image, thanks to my editor.

Image 3:

It’s clear in this image that all writers—even editors who are authors—need another set of eyes on their work.

For the record, it’s a common misconception that editors know everything there is to know about publishing. Some might, but I specialize in editing content, not formatting and beyond. That said, when I’d decided to make Cursing with Style a marketable book, I knew I had to get some professional help with the publishing process. Enter Polly Letofsky, Publishing Mama and owner of My Word Publishing. I happen to be one of their editors, so I knew that the professionals at My Word Publishing guide authors from conception to completion of a work. To quote a sentence from my book’s Acknowledgments, “Without [Polly] coaching me through copyright law and other very specific details in the publishing process, such as the ins and outs of KDP, I’d be lost.”

While Polly and I were brainstorming category ideas, she mentioned that my book would make a great gag gift. So, when I’m asked what sets my book apart from other sweary dictionaries, I tell people that the language within Cursing with Style isn’t hard to read for anyone—whether editor or casual reader—making it a great “gag gift” for anybody with an affinity for swear words. In fact, lots of my friends who are not editors have bought copies of my book, and they get a kick out of it. My clients do too!

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t claim to be a connoisseur of swear words. I’m just a book editor whose needs weren’t fulfilled by any of the sweary resources at my disposal. My growing discontent led me to write Cursing with Style, and now I am satisfied. It’s as simple as that.

You may now be asking yourself, "Do I need this?" Well, if you don't need or want it, someone you know might, and the holiday season is upon us. It's a great gift for that friend or family member who swears like a sailor!

Erika in a casual pose at Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens
Photography by Keith Kapaldo (Evergreen Arboretum & Gardens, Everett, Wash.)

Erika M. Weinert is a copy line and copy editor of fiction who lives in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and is an active member of the Northwest Editors Guild—a regional, industry-specific association of editors. She mentors fledgling editors through the guild and on her own. When she’s not providing remote editing services to her clients and mentoring, Erika can be found at home with her wonderful husband and their daughter, whom they brought into the world the same year they were married—2008. Erika treasures her family—including their two cats—and her career above all else.

Keith Kapaldo, Erika’s past mentee through the Northwest Editors Guild, edited this article. He is also responsible for the photos of Erika Weinert within this article; photography is one of his hobbies. Keith has a certificate in editing from the University of California, San Diego, and Erika worked closely with him during their two-month mentoring session through the guild. His line and copy edits are those of a professional who’s been in the business as long as Erika has, so she highly recommends contacting him if you’re in need of a line and/or copy editor.

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