Monday, July 5, 2010

Slang In YA... and why I like it

Last week, I promised to tackle an issue regarding adult authors choosing to write for teens.

What issue, you ask? Slang.

Wikipedia defines slang as: the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's dialect or language. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo (see euphemism). It is also used to identify with one's peers.

Many readers complain about the overuse of slang in YA novels. I get it--it's annoying. It looks forced and a tad cliche. The author's attempt to capture teen speak can fall flat with the intended audience, but it can also be a bummer for adults reading YA, too. They won't relate to the characters or the dialogue. In some cases, people put books down because of this.

Confession: I would never do that.

I'd finish that slang infested book even if it costs me my sanity.

Oh, wait... I don't think I have any left...

Anyway, back to the point. Slang doesn't have to be used all over the place, but it is important to show the reader who the main character hangs out with, what he/she does in their spare time, and how he/she sees the world. Some authors illustrate this through the way their character describes setting and emotions. And sometimes, slang fits right in with those descriptions. Think about it: most teens don't talk to their parents the same way they talk to their best friend. Some do, of course. I don't believe in absolutes. But the truth can't be ignored--young adult lit should capture... wait for it... the young adult spirit. OMGs included.

A YA book shouldn't be bashed because it's slang infested. The same thing can't be said if the book talks down to its teen audience, or if it tries to teach them a lesson in an obvious way ("and the moral of the story is..."). Authors should simply be careful with how much slang means to a certain character in the books. Not everyone should be a fan of OMG. That would be a bit unrealistic, don't you think?

So. Slang in YA. I like it. I would read an entire book with it, but only if it adds to the characterization. Using it just because that's what you think teens like to read is a mistake. Just saying.

What say you, blogging buddies? Is slang your cup of tea?


  1. I really dislike slang that feels forced, but I think most YA novels I have read incorporate it in a natural way that adds to their characters.
    There was one YA book I started (and then stopped) reading recently because the voice felt SO forced. That was based on more than slang, though.
    This would be something that a teen beta would be a tremendous help with, I think.

  2. It depends on the slang. Being a teenager, I know how people my age actually speak, so when it becomes a little too much or too cheesy or something, sometimes I just have to remember that it's a book. My specialty is dialogue and I always want my characters dialogue to sound real to my readers, so if there's too much slang thrown in there that's cheesy or something, it makes me cringe.

  3. I depends on the slang for me, as well. Even as a teenager, I'm one of those who don't use slang much, and neither do my friends. Having too many slangs can render a book difficult to wade through. However, if the slang is appropriate to the characters, I don't mind it much. :)

  4. It really does depend on the author and how much it's used. I absolutely despise books that use outdated 'chatspeak.' Example: No one I know actually texts like this: "K, C U L8R." That is way too morse code-like for me, and it's annoying to read through. I do, however, LOVE when slang is used to describe where a character is from. Maybe it's just dropping a few -ing endings, or adding a phrase or two specific to their area, but whatever it is, it always adds to the story for me. (:

    /rant in comment form

  5. Not that I've read any books written in slang but I have read comments in forums etc written in txt lingo and that just annoys me. I find it lazy. :-) Sorry!!!

    But I take your point about using slang if it adds to the characterization but not for the hell of it or the gimmick of it!

    take care

  6. When it feels forced, I'm out. But your point actually makes a lot of sense. And I think I'm okay with slang if it adds to the story.

  7. I totally agree! Slang is great but it doesn't have to be overused. Plus I think it really does date a book.

  8. I would read a slang infested book only...if it added to the characterization. If used right slang can be essential to adding depth and believability to a character.

    Certain ethnics have their own slang. Mixing up these terms in a book can bring the believable factor way down as well. (Hugs)Indigo

  9. I don't mind slang...but being beaten over the head with it feels like lazy writing to me. The focus becomes the slang (and figuing out what it means) and distracts from the character behind the language.

  10. I don't mind it and I use it in small doses. Just like writing with any other colloquialisms, dialect, accents, etc, I think if it's overdone it can get in the way. And as long as it's not slang that will date the book then yeah, I'm all for it. I use it in all my novels. It brings the characters to life, esp. if it fits their life situations. Great post!

  11. I enjoy well done slang. Over the top slang can be annoying- and I can cite at least one adult series with slang that drives me CRAZY. Slang can also date a book - for the good or bad. Great post. Thanks!

  12. I try not to inundate my readers with slang because it doesn't feel genuine to me. However, when writing YA dialogue, I do loosen it up a bit. Going to become gonna, etc. Nice post!