Using Slang

Let's talk about writing using contemporary slang.

I often include current slang words and/or phrases in my freelance writing because they give a certain immediacy and conversational tone that make the content accessible to a wide audience.

Not only do kids and those who strive to be ultra-cool talk in the latest slang, but also the slang is understood by the general audience too, thanks to movies and TV.

In books, it’s harder to know which slang word or phrase to use because the lag time between conception and publication is rather large, especially in the printed book world. What’s hip today may not be hip tomorrow, or, worse, may mean the opposite in a year or more which is how long it usually takes legacy published books to hit the shelves.

Ebook writers have it easier since we can edit content fairly quickly and easily. Still, we don't want to constantly be tinkering with a book's text file.

What’s A Writer To Do

1. Choose judiciously. Some words that were cool a generation ago are still cool, i.e., the word cool. Sure, sick may be the word of choice today, but it may be passe next year whereas the word cool has been around a few decades and is still useful.

2. Don’t inundate your writing with slang. Use it carefully to depict only a few characters rather than all of them. If you’re writing juvenile fiction, you may try to write all characters rapping back and forth in their own slang language, but if you eavesdrop on kids, you’ll find that in general conversation, most of them talk like the rest of us with an occasional slang word thrown in for effect.

3. Consult any of the print or online slang dictionaries. There are a bunch of them. If you haven’t done this before, just Google that search phrase. Many of these are updated often from once a day to multiple times a day. If you haven’t consulted a slang dictionary before, try not to be offended by some of the words and definitions.

Takeaway Truth

Writers must write for the audience that exists today, not twenty years ago, yet the writing should be as clear in meaning today as in twenty years from now.


  1. About a decade ago, my wife was doing proofreading at a type house, and one of the other proofreaders came across the term "booty call" and spent FOUR HOURS trying to decide if that was the term the writer wanted to use, and whether it was "booty" or "bootie".

    The other ten proofreaders agreed that the term was correct in context, and spelled correctly, but THAT proofreader insisted on finding a reference to back him up, and he couldn't find one.

    I'm a perfectionist at times, but my wife says she's happy I'm not THAT bad.

  2. Thanks, Harl. I needed a laugh. I'm sick again I guess. Going to doc later this week. So I'm going to be kind of AWOL from the cyber world for a few days until I feel better. Got some good posts scheduled though.

    Best wishes,