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Style Chapter 9: Slang
vandanagoyal wrote in visionindia2047
Slang is casual spoken language which should not be used in formal writing unless the writer is attempting to achieve a deliberate effect.


 It is best to avoid using too much slang. It should only be used if appropriate to the writing because of its style or the subject and only as much as necessary.

Use of slang is the most unpleasant when writer is pretending to be youthful and modern . If it does not fit in with the writer's style in general, it is ugly.


Slang words like 'ok' are acceptable English words now. Shakespeare is credited with coining thousands of words and phrases which were new at the time but have since enriched the language. Some examples:
to be or not be, bated breath, break the ice, cold comfort, dead as a doornail, a dish fit for the gods, full circle. But compare these with hubby which is commonly used in tabloid and broadsheet newspapers for husband and you can see that it is a rather unpleasant word.


Slang can make the writing humorous and playful. But  graphic and obscene slang words are unnecessary and unacceptable unless you are known to have a rebellious streak. In American Gonzo journalism slang and obscenities are commonly used and accepted. But this journalism is a very special brand and mainstream writers should not attempt to imitate it.


Slang is best avoided in formal writing as then the writing appears frivolous. Reader will not be receptive to serious ideas if they are presented casually. 


If the writing warrants it, selective use of slang can give it a feeling of trendiness. It can give color since slang is often unique, unusual, and startling. It can set the mood and make reader relate to the writer or the character. A case in point is  the brilliant use of colloquial style in J. D. Salinger's classic novel 'Catcher in the Rye'.


“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” 



The  important thing to keep in mind is to use it in moderation and make sure reader understands what is being said.


Consider Love to Love you Bollywood by Khalid Mohamed on This is how it starts...

Wink wink, a star daughter adores Gapuchi gum-gum doggy toys in pink. Blink. Now by some quirk of fate, a Delhi boy lands the plum pudding role of the hero opposite Pouting Pink in one of those love lollipop-a-loolahs. Now the producer’s a funnier fig that his hurly-curly wig, the director’s forever breaking into a jolly jig but don’t you dare throw a fit. The nitwit movie’s a freak-out hit. Yippee?

There is good word to describe this kind of writing - crap.


Film journalism almost pioneered the extensive use of slang and it is expected in all film writing to some extent. But in the above article, it descends into madness. There are hardly any recognisable words that you would find in a dictionary. It is difficult to understand what the writer is trying to say most of the time. Rather than taking the reader with him, the writer goes on an ego trip of over used alliteration and pointless slang words.


A final piece of advice,

"If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better."

(William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, The Elements of Style)

©2008 VisionIndia2047


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