Slang Words: Good or Bad?
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    Default Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    As I'm writing dialog, I'm starting to use more slang words. The thing I've thought half way through this is whether it's bad, or does it help to bring out the character in who says it? In real life, it's not like we always use slang or make grammar mistakes while talking, but in a story, what does it come off as?

    Does it make the writer look lazy, unprofessional, or sloppy, or does it help to bring out the character's personality?

    I've come to the self-conclusion that it's okay, as long is it's not overboard, but as I'm writing I'm tending to use a lot of it. So I guess my second question is: How much is too much?

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    Less cute in person Beth Pavell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    In my opinion in dialogue it's just fine so long as the meaning isn't obscured. The kind of slang a person uses can say a lot about them as a character. I think that the way people tend to speak in real life is a good benchmark. Obscure or unusual slang is likely to become annoying - off the top of my head, using competitive battling slang might be irritating to a reader who is an anime fan, for example
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    It depends on the character. If you're writing a fancy, haughty character with an educated background, for example, using slang words might be considered "beneath" them. However, if you were writing a character that had no formal schooling, or maybe just didn't care, then I could definitely see them using slang terms.

    It all depends of what type of character you're going for. In the actual narrative, always avoid slang words. When it comes to dialogue, think about the character, how they would carry themselves, and decide whether or not slang would be appropriate for that type of character.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    So long as your not inventing idiotic slang words to get around the 'frakking' censorship.
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pavell View Post
    Obscure or unusual slang is likely to become annoying - off the top of my head, using competitive battling slang might be irritating to a reader who is an anime fan, for example
    Quote Originally Posted by PiccoloX83 View Post
    So long as your not inventing idiotic slang words to get around the 'frakking' censorship.
    This is good to note. I hadn't really thought about the boundaries of slang itself, but I don't doubt that unusual slang would be annoying.


    Thank you all for the advice.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    I think slang can be a useful way to express the author's tastes. Since fan fiction is different from real, published works, I can tolerate it more in fan fiction than in real novels. Just try to be mindful of what type of character you are using. For example, a rich, pretentious blue-blood who went to a college similar to Oxford would most likely not say something like "What up my n*ggas?" A teenager in 2014 is most likely not going to say "gnarly" or "radical" to mean "awesome". An American character is probably not going to use "bloody" as an expletive. A person who does not watch anime is not going to say "kawaii" or "neko" unless they're speaking mostly or exclusively Japanese. Someone who isn't into Star Trek is most likely not going to understand terms related to the fandom.

    It's not just slang to watch for - it could be any language. A die-hard feminist will probably find words like "actress" and "stewardess" to be sexist. Someone who ascribes to "political correctness gone mad" will use terms like "differently-abled" or "person of color" instead of "disabled" or "black", while a neo-Nazi would probably use plenty of racial slurs. A person who doesn't know anything about rugby wouldn't know any terms related to the sport. A very morbid person would probably use a lot of negative words, while a Pollyanna would use tons of positive words. (Pollyanna refers to a person who is overly optimistic. The term comes from a character in an old novel who is famous for her positive outlook.) An artist would probably recognize and use more terms related to painting than a person who isn't an artist. Terminology also changes - certain words fall out of use and get replaced by other words. It would make some sense for a character living in the Victorian era to refer to Muslims as "Mohammedans", since that was a common term for Muslims at the time, whereas a character living in the present would probably say Muslim instead because the term Mohammedan is considered outdated and offensive. Remember, interests is important to how the character speaks. Let's say I have a story with two 16-year-old boys named James and Joseph. They look very similar and have similar backgrounds, but James spends nine hours a day on 4chan while Joseph spends much of the same amount of time reading novels. James doesn't read books unless they're manga, and while Joseph uses forums, they're all writing forums, where you're very unlikely to see 4chan slang (unless of course the person is writing a story that involves a character who is a 4chan user) and he doesn't know much about 4chan. It's likely that they will use different words in everyday speech. Joseph would probably not say terms like "moar" or "n00b", whereas James would probably not understand a lot of long, more formal words.

    Getting back to fanfics...I am personally appalled when I see SMS language used in any form of writing outside of forums and cell phone calls. (I can accept it in author's notes, though not in actual writing.) It looks unprofessional and it makes the writer look stupid. I also really get annoyed when fanfics use too many Japanese terms. Not all of us understand Japanese - I don't even understand that many Japanese terms. It can also alienate people who aren't into anime. I'm actually not bothered by American fanfic writers using American English for British works, or British fanfic writers using British English for American works, though I do try to use British English when I'm writing a British character (and I understand British English very well because I've met actual British people in real life). I have trouble understanding Australian English (generally terms used only in Australia - similarities to British English I understand very well) because I've only met one person from Australia in real life and I didn't speak to him much (he was a nice guy, but we didn't see each other that much). Looking up regional English dialects can help.
    Last edited by Baby Seals; 22nd March 2014 at 09:28 PM.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    I am very careful about using slang in my novel, particularly because it's set in a medieval-style fantasy world with its own slang and vernacular in addition to whatever I borrow from the real world. I can't use anything too modern, obviously, but I do frequently use slang, especially with characters of lower birth, to express their status as part of the "common" folk.

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    Reader and Writer Legacy's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    If it is purposeful and helps describe a characters personality, then I'm all for it. Little things like that go along way towards making a character deep and believable.

    It has to be on point though. Don't want an uptight, rigid authority figure refer to his subordinates as "homies." As long as the slang used is consistent with the personality of the character, I think it's fine and even effective.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    Don't just throw in some slang words for the mere sake of producing a slanging effects. Even a real person in daily talking don't bomber their conversations with slang words, then why characters in fictions will? Just think of how people talks everyday, then you'll know when will be appropriate to use slang words.

    And BTW, in case of speaking ills of someone else, slang words and generic swear words is really not the only way to do the job. Just like @Toutebelle had described, different people with different background will use different offensive words, and will find some words being specifically offensive to one's ear. The African American deemed the word "black" as offensive, but that word is not really that offensive to the local Africans. The Americans likes to swear by using words with meanings of sexual intercourses, but with Asians, cursing someone's family dying in the most miserable way is the most offensive swearing, even much more hurting by swearing with words of sexual meanings. Religious people will be angry if someone speak ills about the gods/deities they believe in, but for the atheists, they will be angry if someone speaks illy about themselves.
    And for me personally, the words of belittling other's intelligence, such as "idiots", "morons", "dimwits", etc, is the most offensive words for me.

    I might be divert a little bit from the topic, as this thread is about slang words, but not swear words.
    But, if one think of it differently, slang words is alternatively a kind of "technical words", used by a group of people from the same social group, especially under informal situations.
    So IMO, slang words should be used limitedly, only in the casual scenes that no formality is needed.
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by Legacy View Post
    It has to be on point though. Don't want an uptight, rigid authority figure refer to his subordinates as "homies." As long as the slang used is consistent with the personality of the character, I think it's fine and even effective.
    Similar to this, I tend to have my royal or high-birth characters speak with archaic or overly formal speech patterns, to indicate their detachment from the pulse of the common population. The more casually an aristocrat speaks, the more populist they are.

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    The Dude Abides
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    having a character use slang can be a great way of characterizing them...if you're careful about it. For example, say you have a character that used to be a sailor. Not only would it fit for them to swear like a...uh, sailor, but it would also be fitting for them to use naval slang (requires research, but research is fun).
    Or a streetwise kid, as another example. You wouldn't have a street urchin speaking the Queen's English, would you? But don't go overboard on the "guvnahs" either.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    It's situational, really. I know here where I live, we say soda, but in other places, they say pop. Different dialects and different words may have different meanings, and there's words that you may use in one place where everyone understands them, but somewhere else, you could say that same word, & people would think you're nuts.

    Also generational gaps. Older generations may use terms younger generations don't fully understand, and vice versa. All of these could be considered slang terms, really, just depends on how and when they're being used and who's hearing them.

    They shouldn't really be used unless the characters involved understand them though, or if the character(s) should gain an understanding of them. (An example of a character gaining an understanding of them would be when Malfoy calls Hermione a Mudblood in Chamber of Secrets, but neither she nor Harry understand what the term means since they didn't grow up exposed to the wizarding world like Ron did, who learned at some point in his life prior to coming to Hogwarts that Mudblood is slang for a Muggleborn witch or wizard.) Otherwise, they really show no purpose. They could be good in showing generational gaps as well, the difference between an older generation and a newer generation and how things have changed over time, showing how their slang isn't necessarily our slang and whatnot.

    Excessive use of them could be kind of unappealing though, I think. I think the characters should use the appropriate terms at some point throughout their appearances in the story unless they were taught otherwise.

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    Requiem Raver Drakon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    I'm of the belief that slang is perfectly acceptable in dialogue and even to a very limited extent, narration. However, I also believe there is one major requirement: Slang used should be appropriate to the character and time.

    A Vietnam War era soldier referring to the Vietcong as Charlie. Fine.

    A Iraq War era soldier referring to the Iraqi insurgents as Hadij. Fine.

    A Iraq War era soldier referring to the Iraqi insurgents as Charlie. Wrong

    A Vietnam era soldier referring to the Vietcong as Hadij. Wrong.
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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    when writing R/B chapter 2 there was a scene where a slang word was used. In it the rival character Greg called Becca a "Broad", he then got puched out. Anyhow, originally the slang was going to be "Toots" however I looked it up and found out it can also be used as a negative slang for a Black Person, so I decide to change it.

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    Default Re: Slang Words: Good or Bad?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    having a character use slang can be a great way of characterizing them...if you're careful about it. For example, say you have a character that used to be a sailor. Not only would it fit for them to swear like a...uh, sailor, but it would also be fitting for them to use naval slang (requires research, but research is fun).
    Or a streetwise kid, as another example. You wouldn't have a street urchin speaking the Queen's English, would you? But don't go overboard on the "guvnahs" either.
    One thing that annoys me is when poor people are speaking butchered English (especially Cockney, which would probably only work for something set in London). I've known poor people and they definitely can speak proper English, maybe not formal English, but I can definitely understand them. Making them speak indecipherable butchered English can imply that you are classist.

    Also, try to remember that some people use slang more than others. I know plenty of people my age who don't use or even understand much of this generation's slang. It's best not to go overboard with period slang too. For example, not every teenage girl in the 1980s talked like a Valley Girl - my mom and her sister were teenagers during that time and they didn't talk like that. And try not to go overboard on regional slang - I'm from New York and I don't understand a lot of New York slang. Same with slang for racial and religious groups - don't overdo it. Not all black people talk like they're from the hood and not all Jews sprinkle random Yiddish words into their speech. (FTR, I've seen plenty of non-blacks using ghetto slang and plenty of non-Jews using random Yiddish words.)
    Last edited by Baby Seals; 30th August 2014 at 03:37 PM.

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