I’ve been hearing a lot of people with differing opinions about the use of slang in writing. Slang isn’t inherently good or bad on its own, but there are times and places where it’s appropriate and times and places when it isn’t. And that’s what this post is going to address.
Slang is, by nature, something we need to approach carefully. It isn’t to be tossed about lightly because readers might not pick up what you’re putting down. Yo. Slang also differs wildly between cultures and even between regions of the same culture. “Wicked” in New England means “cool” or “awesome”. “Wicked pissa’” means “really awesome”. Yeah. We’re dweebs like that, I know. However, if you aren’t a nerd, or you haven’t paid much attention to New England, you might not know that. Hence the dangers of using slang. If someone unfamiliar with our slang heard that they might cringe and think we have a bladder infection or something.
Slang also can be dangerous when you’re dealing with individual professions. My husband was a machinist for years, and that industry has its own lexicon. For example, “I’m going to mic this part,” means “I’m going to inspect this part with a micrometer”. Mic, in this case, differing from the common use (“microphone”) and resulting in a funny mental image.
Using slang in writing is a delicate act. On one hand it’s a good way to establish a character’s baseline. A character using the slang of “ain’t” and such is unlikely to be from China, for example. Also, using the proper slang for the character can advance the depth of the storytelling. On the other hand if it isn’t explained properly it can be disastrously confusing. Make sure, if you use slang you either stick to common slang or explain it somehow. To use the machining example:
“I’m gonna mic this part,” he said, brandishing the micrometer as he carried the part over to the table and began measuring.
That’s a little verbose on my part, but the concept is sound. While it’s never good to take the reader too far out of the moment to explain what a character is saying if you can do it in line of the text without distracting from the moment it’s a great way to bring the reader further into the moment.
- 59 More Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again (rachaelpotter.wordpress.com)
- Slanguage is the new Language (mexidude.wordpress.com)
- Slang (eltsuwinchester.wordpress.com)