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Slang in your dialogue
Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 11:20 AM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

Some writers feel like using slang makes their writing more authentic, others worry it will date the manuscript too quickly, or will ring false. How do you handle this?
Amber Wolfe
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 12:20 PM

Hmm . . . Slang. My favorite dialogue to talk about


To answer your question, I go with my heart--I have a character who uses slang, a pixie named Nixie. It's her default dialogue, the way pixies in my universe talk. Like so:


"I wasn't doin' nothin'. You're just mad 'cause I tricked you."


What she does most is omit the 'g' at the end of 'ing' words, as well as the 'be' in because. Other times she doesn't. I suppose it depends on how I hear the dialogue playing out in my head.


So, what I do is go with my instincts. If the dialogue sounds too hard to understand because I've riddled it with too much slang, I cut back on it until it's easy, without taking away the character's unique way of speaking. I'm all for slang, so long as it doesn't go overboard. If I can play out the slang in my mind without tripping up while reading a manuscript, I don't mind it.



Rachel Anne Marks
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015 2:03 PM
Joined: 1/23/2012
Posts: 36

I love slang in dialogue, but I try to use it sparingly. I feel like it can be bumpy to read if it's too heavy-handed. Of course, that doesn't always stop me


Charles J. Barone
Posted: Monday, June 15, 2015 1:25 PM
Joined: 7/18/2014
Posts: 121

I tend to avoid slang, although I occasionally will toss in police related slang that cops have and still are using. It isn't PC but it's how they talk amongst themselves.


In addition to the slang, my character is also very right of center politically and occasionally makes comments on issues that have been, still are and may always be current.

Lucy Silag - Book Country Director
Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 5:30 PM
Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 1356

Interesting perspectives!


What about using slang that you make up for the world you are building? Has anyone tried that?

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015 9:31 PM
Joined: 6/10/2015
Posts: 26


In theory, I like using different accents and slang. Actually, one of my favourite examples is in the 4th Harry Potter book, where Rowling cuts all of the "h"s and changes "th" to Z for the Frenchies. I like it because it was very specifically French and not just a generic accent.


My least favourite? Definitely Trainspotting. Sorry, but I couldn't get through the first chapter... It has received a lot of praise from critics for the dialogue but I just had to work too hard to understand.


 That said, in Størgård, I did eventually decide to use a proper accent, more flowery, and better vocabulary for upper class characters, but use a different one for lower class characters. I did a lot of what Amber explained, some "somethin'" and "nuthin'" but I'm still torn about how well I actually pulled it off. Another problem is that I think a lot of "lower class" accent is not the actual words, but rather the manner with which people speak and that is really difficult to capture in writing. Especially if you want to make it comprehensible for readers. (Trainspotting achieved the former, but failed at the latter, at least in my opinion)


Amanda Kimberley
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 8:42 PM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 69

I do write slang if the character calls for it. Sometimes, though, the character speaks in a different language and I tend to use the correct spelling in that language when I have the character talk. 


I personally don't think the slang will date a manuscript. If you take common words that were used in the 80's like "laters", "nothin'", "nite", "dude", or "trippin'" and cross reference them today, you will find that some teens are using them. So personally I don't think slang dates a book. Instead I think it makes it more believable. 


HOWEVER, if your character uses the word "Dude" or "Brother" in every other sentence like he's Hulk Hogan, I'm going to be a little turned off by that character and I just may skip his speaking part while reading. I'd also be just as turned off with someone who talks too proper.


I have had characters that talk too proper or speak with too much slang in my writing before and sometimes it's tough. He's obviously doing it for a reason in the book. Or in Hogan's case-- he simply couldn't remember people's names so he called them "brother" instead. I think, though, that it's best to find that happy medium throughout the book in these types of cases because characters, like people, don't constantly talk that way. When I read the character out loud during my drafts I try to make sure he doesn't sound so one dimensional because a multi-faceted character seems more real to me.

Peter Carlyle
Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015 9:36 AM
Joined: 8/20/2015
Posts: 19

It depends if the slang is fairly universal to English speaking countries.
John Speikers
Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:07 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 19

I've spent nearly 30 years as a cab driver listening to people speak with all kinds of accents, including European, Asian, African, Near Eastern and Latin.  They don't sound like writers scribbling language. Their speech is filled with contractions, slurred pronunciations and umm's and ahh's. Authors can't duplicate the gibberish exactly, but they should give a good facsimile.  The last time I heard someone say "do not" instead of "don't" would be when the Cubs last won the World Series. Ha.
Posted: Monday, August 24, 2015 4:08 PM
Joined: 8/24/2015
Posts: 4

I'm hoping to use some slang in my dialogue too. If it's done well, it adds authenticity to the character. The trick is to make it intelligible to the reader, and not get too carried away! All part of the writing challenge.


Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2016 8:16 AM
Joined: 1/5/2016
Posts: 14


As writers, our job is to create believable characters, and what a character says and how they say it has to reflect who that person is (under normal circumstances). Otherwise, we’ll lose our readers quickly. The way a character speaks, whether using slang, using profanity, speaking "properly" or however has to reflect that character's reality. A “proper” character should speak properly, and honestly. If they speak too properly, then use too proper dialogue. If they speak Cockney or have a Brooklyn accent, write Cockney dialogue and write a Brooklyn accent. If reading those is a bit of work for the reader, so be it. People talk as they talk, not as they want others to hear (or read).


Any fiction writer who says they don’t use slang probably isn’t writing a realistic story.


That said, using slang for a standard third-person narrator would be a big mistake. I don’t think anyone in this forum is thinking in those terms.


Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 6:47 PM
Joined: 1/31/2016
Posts: 30

I try not to use slang much. Even It's i write It is. I think it reads better.

Some characters use it a lot. A Bad Boy from Jamacia "Jah man."

Does slang just confuse a reader?

It's like when I was in the USA I found it easier to bung on a USA accent so they could understand a Aussie.

Dravid  "Gidday, mate, how's it hanging? Want to go down the pub for a scooey?"

Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016 2:28 AM
Joined: 1/31/2016
Posts: 30

At some stage a action ; set of actions ; a magic power, all need a name.

My main power of a magical nature is...

Flit :-  To dissapear and instantly arrive even to another continent.

     (one day)

Two appear at the 'balls' on Rundle Mall in the city of Adelaide.

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2016 12:48 AM
Joined: 10/31/2015
Posts: 13

I do employ tons of regional slang and dialect in my work;  being I am from the Chicago area and Italian I bitch because Ramsey Campbell sounds way too fucking stuffy (hope that helps)  those of you with my area.  Profanity is a huge part of our more sarcastic slang and go into the Weiner's Circle if you want to hear the mutual abuse.  biggrin

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