Yo, want to mark where you fall on the generation timeline? Address folks with “Yo.” Or ask your teenager, “Did you hook-up with your friends today?” (This innocent question gets quite a reaction around here, let me tell you!) Slang evolves. What means one thing in one generation can mean something completely different in another. An insult in your generation could be a compliment in the next, or a sick slang expression could be like speaking Hungarian.
Tips for using slang in teen novels:
1. Use slang sparingly. Eavesdrop on a conversation between teenagers (for research purposes, of course). How often do they use slang? Not often, I’d venture.
When writing, toss in a slang word, here and there, for authenticity and color. Take care not to overdo it, or risk obliterating your characters. Dialogue heavily laden with slang can come across forced and unnatural. Slang choices should enrich your characters, not make them laughable. Be wise; be conservative.
2. Know your slang. We’re doing “research” again. What slang words do you hear teens using in conversation? Ask them what unfamiliar terms means, or jot expressions down and search their meaning on:
Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com/
The Online Slang Dictionary: http://onlineslangdictionary.com/
But beware! Don’t assume a slang word or phrase is current because it appears on these websites. When in doubt, ask an expert: members of your target audience. If you receive a blank stare or an “Ewwwwww,” best to avoid using that expression.
You can consult teachers or other professionals who interact with teenagers, as well. Social networks are also a great source. Read through conversation threads on your teenage Facebook friends’ posts and take notes on language usage.
3. Stick with timeless and universal expressions. You can’t go wrong with “awesome” or “cool,” in my humble opinion. At least, they don’t make my teens wince, and they’re widely known, unlike other expressions I’ve used. I once wrote that I was “pissed” about something on Facebook. A British friend told me he did a double take when he saw my comment coming through his feed. Apparently, pissed means drunk as a skunk in England.
Don’t date your book, or yourself. Educate yourself on current teen slang, use it sparingly and wisely in your writing, and opt for a timeless classic over trendy. And when you spot a sign in Old Navy that says flip-flops are on sale, don’t shout across the store to your teenage daughters, “Girls! Thongs are on sale!” Yeah, that went over well.
Elise Stokes lives with her husband and four children. She was an elementary school teacher before becoming a full-time mom. With a daughter in middle school and two in high school, Elise’s understanding of the challenges facing girls in that age range inspired her to create a series that will motivate young teens to value individualism, courage, integrity, and intelligence.
The stories in the Cassidy Jones Adventures series are fun and relatable, and a bit edgy without taking the reader uncomfortably out of bounds.