Poll: What is YOUR Definition of a Clean Read?

Hands Under a Running Faucet

In a couple weeks I’m giving a presentation/workshop on clean romances for the League of Utah Writers Conference. (Click the link for more details on the conference.)

As part of the presentation I want to share what YOU think. Over the last couple years as I’ve done book lists, Studio 5 segments and columns on this subject I’ve come across basically three different ideas about CLEAN READS. In reality, the opinions are as varied as the people who read, but I think most of us fit into one of these three.

Read through the 3 “camps” and then take the poll to tell me which one you fit into. Pick the one you prefer to read most often, even if you actually read all of them or more than one. Pick the one that is your ideal CLEAN definition.

Then take the second poll to say how often you read CLEAN reads.

PLEASE SHARE THIS POLL – I’d like as big a sample as possible. THANK YOU!!! @TeriHarman, #cleanreads


1 – No foul language and only very mild violence. No mention of sex ever. Christian morals. Emotions might be steamy, but physical never is.

2 – A handful of mild foul language and mild, infrequent violence. Sex can be referenced or eluded to a few times. Romance is still mostly about emotions, with a little bit of physical steaminess (kissing).

3 – Mild foul language, never any F-words or harsh deity terms. Moderate violence (more frequent, but not more descriptive). One or two “off-stage” sex scenes about emotional pay-off, not physical. No detailed physical descriptions.



6 thoughts on “Poll: What is YOUR Definition of a Clean Read?

  1. I am not sure what camp I fit into! I am completely against sex before marriage. If the characters were married I wouldn’t mind reading vague/modest references to their sex life, but def. no sex scenes. Also,I am not a fan of the whole worldly ideas of how people fall in love, so not thinking that is terribly ‘clean’ either.

    • Thanks, Christina! Yes, there are a lot more details and personal preferences then I can include in definitions. That’s why they are pretty general. Sounds like you’d be in Camp 1 or 2, though.

      Teri Harman

  2. I would really love it if the literary world would add ratings. Really, how hard would it be to review and then rate literature the same way we do on screen action? I would use the same scale system, too. G through XXX; because, quite frankly, some books I’ve read should have had the XXX warning on them! Thank you for this poll.

    • Cynthia, I totally agree! I think it’s weird the publishing industry doesn’t do that. Set the guidelines, slap a rating symbol on back cover. It’d be easy and soo helpful.

      Teri Harman

  3. Lumping language, violence, and intimacy I feel distorts the poll. Also, much depends upon context. Shakespeare’s works fall well outside of what was listed on option 1(& two in some cases) on the poll, but his works are timeless/universal. And there are some Christian romances that were unrealistic drivel because they lacked real content.

    Language: I will put down a book with lots of hard core swearing as I do not want pick up those phrases. But a handful that are “in character” for a character I tend to let pass. There are some great books that I’ve read where the author found creative ways within their world to have expletives, but without offending. On the whole though it is unneeded.

    Intimacy: I’m fine with it to a point. I don’t like a step by step; if that’s how it’s written it simply shows that the author lacks imagination IMHO. If you can’t find a way to reference it without it becoming a manual… maybe you should write something else. One well written sentence is enough to forward the plot.

    Violence: This one is quite tricky as it is so very dependent upon context. Does the story have an abusive relationship? It is a mystery about a killer? Is it a hero tale in which defeating the bad guy needs to happen while a city gets crunched? Is there a war on? Writing fight scene/violence is very difficult for most people as they have no experience.

    On the other hand, when I read a story in which relationships are mentally or physically abusive I wonder about the author. I will not let my daughter read something with abuse in it unless it is addressed and labeled as “bad”. There are some very popular of YA books that are not allowed in my house. There is no swearing, no sex until after the main characters are wed: HOWEVER, everything about the relationship in the books abusive and violent. Both mentally and physically. This, in my opinion, is worse than a book with a sex scene between two unwed people who love each other or some characters who may swear. It is unhealthy and demeaning and more morally bankrupt than anything else.

    Being a “clean” read should be more about promoting kind, equal, balanced, relations and good over evil ideals more than what is left out.

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