Slang may seem cool and acceptable in movies and some types of writings but for the most part, it’s advisable to avoid slangs. Before we get into a deeper discussion about slangs, let us remind you to take backups. So that if something goes wrong, you still have the blog posts you have written and can quickly restore them. But if you are not using a backup service, then check out this backup plugin guide to choosing the best WordPress backup plugin.
“Marc and I were all set to hang out with the dudes in the hood on Friday night. But he bailed out at the last minute. What a louse!” How many slang words could you identify in the sentence? The right answer is five (hang out, dudes, hood, bailed out and louse).
If you didn’t get a perfect score to the above question, chances are you’re not the only one. In his book How to Speak and Write Correctly, Joseph Devlin aptly points out that slang words and expressions have crept into our everyday language so insidiously that they go undetected by the majority of speakers.
As informal as it gets
What exactly is slang? It’s a type of language, not considered standard English, consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people.
They’ve become part and parcel of their vocabulary on an equal footing with the legitimate words of speech across continents. As a result, “to kick the bucket,” “to cross the Jordan” or “to hop the twig” are just as expressive of death, in the backwoods of America or the wilds of Australia as they are in London or Dublin. But if you are writing of a person having died last night I’m sure you wouldn’t write: “He hopped the twig” or “he kicked the bucket”. Unless you had a personal vendetta against him, that is.
Commonly used slang words:
In the US
bombed: intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
cram: study hastily for an impending exam.
dork: stupid, inept, or foolish person.
party animal: someone who loves parties.
veg out: stop working and take it easy.
In the UK:
A recent online poll completed by internetslang.com revealed these most popular slang words used in London:
innit – isn’t it
ain’t – Am not/are not/is not
LOL – Laugh out loud
YOLO – You only live once
Like – Introduction to a quote. It’s the same as UM (an expression of hesitation)
According to the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, “Slang is lexical innovation within a particular cultural context.”
“The proof of the pudding is in the cooking,’’ is an old saying we would do well to remember when writing in modern times. My understanding is that if the results are good then the cooking worked. If the readers like the conversational style and the use of slang then the language works. However, there is such a thing as standards and a particular publication or website may feel your usage is not consistent with the image they want to portray”, says English Specialist and Editor Susan McKenzie.
Slang – one size may not fit all
When I was editing Seventeen, a teen magazine, in Singapore a few years ago, I learnt new words every day. Like sarni (British slang for sandwich), barbi (for barbeque, which I till then only associated with a certain American doll, hip (which has nothing to do with a body part) and other slang common internet and texting acronyms like BFF, LMAO and LOL. For this particular magazine, the occasional use of slang worked since the teenybopper profile of readers demanded a certain laxity (or should I say irreverent laziness) of language.
But that might not be the case when you’re looking at a larger demographic of readers, especially when writing for the web. Also, not everyone understands all slang and so the clearness and understanding of your article may suffer, your writing will miss the mark and you may land up alienating your readers. For example, only Singaporeans can identify with terms like kiasu (the fear of losing) and shiok (a feeling of sheer pleasure or satisfaction). An Australian would understand fossick (search or rummage) but the meaning out be totally lost on say an American or Indian.
In my opinion…
It’s best to stay clear of ambiguous language, which is most often one of the pitfalls of slang. It can be easily misinterpreted by readers. Blog and web posts are read by native speakers and non-native speakers from all over the world and you don’t want to lose readers for lack of clearness, an abrasive style or something that appears offensive.
Localisms are okay if you’re writing for a certain demographic where the reader recognizes them as part of every everyday language.
They are not slang or abortions of words — they just have a particular local meaning. For example, Americans say ‘elevator’ and the British say ‘lift’. Or the Americans use ‘gas’, we use ‘petrol’….
Personally, as an editor, I find the use of slang reflects a certain slackness and negligence on the part of the writer. As if he or she was doubting the intelligence of readers and dumbing down the language for them. It makes your writing seem too colloquial and pedestrian.
Where not to use slang
Restrict the use of slang to chats with friends. When writing for a reader, try and avoid it as far as possible – unless that particular style of writing is required. In formal writing – be it business, medical, legal etc., avoid slang altogether.
However, if a certain character in your story demands it, put slang in direct quotes. Think about who your audience is, what they expect, and how the use of these words may help or hinder your purpose. If you are writing a very informal or humorous piece, slang or idiomatic expressions may be fun. But if you’re a novice to this form of writing, I’d suggest you best avoid it until you have gained a mastery of the genre. Using slang in your blog post can also depend on what kind of blog you have. If it is a blog on classical music, then avoid slang. If it is a blog on hip-hop music, then you sure can! In fact, there is a whole glossary of hip-hop slang on the net!
Are slang and jargon the same? No. Jargon is special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. Like legal jargon, accounting or programming jargon, or medical jargon.
One thing I would advise is – give your readers the respect they deserve. Good language not only reflects the objectivity of your words but gives you credibility as a writer. Keep your writing simple, direct and to the point.
Here are some useful websites on slang. Just so you know which words to avoid.
And some interesting reading material on slang: How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin
Before ending this article, we’d like to reiterate the importance of backups. Writing an article with or without jargons will amount to nothing if you lose the articles. Misfortunes can happen to anyone which is why it’s advisable that you take WordPress backups. So that, on occasion of a misfortune, you can always restore your site back to normal.