Using Slang – When Is It Appropriate?

Slang is by definition, the use of informal words and expressions in speech or writing. Slang may be colloquially used by certain groups of people of the same social background or same age. Slang does not necessarily follow rules of grammar and syntax and may use words not included in standard dictionaries.

What Is Slang?

Slang can indicate a certain familiarity between the speaker/writer and their audience/reader. Slang is not same as ‘Jargon’. While slang is informal speech, jargon is technical in nature and could form a part of formal speech or writing as well.

However jargon and slang could both seem indecipherable to certain people – for instance older people may not be able to make sense of popular slang words that kids use; and non technical people may not understand technical jargon used by say, a coder.

Slang can be indicative of a person’s region because slang that is used in one area may be indecipherable to one living elsewhere because of the use of vernacular words. Slang also is indicative of a person’s age. So an older person may wonder what booyah (an expression of joy), bling (shiny or showy clothing or accessories) or Scooby doos (good shoes), dawg (friend), sup (how are you, a shortened form of what’s up) mean. But they may know what groovy, fab or bread (as in money) mean.

When Can One Use It?

Slang can give a sense of belonging to a group or of being contemporary. It creates a sense of exclusivity for certain groups who use ‘in’ words that may be incomprehensible to others. For people who routinely communicate in “text-speak” slang abbreviated or initialed slang can help minimize the number of words used.

OMG is easily understood as Oh My God and LOL is easily understood as Laughing Out Loud. Sending emails or text messages to friends using slang and abbreviations is not only appropriate, it may be expected. Slang reflects social norms and changes and as such, its evolution is interesting to follow.

When Is It Not Appropriate?

However the general rule of thumb is that slang is not appropriate for any formal communication. Even when writing emails or sending texts, slang is best avoided if it is addressed to a colleague you don’t know, a senior at work or any other business associate.

Slang is also inappropriate when doing school reports or assignments. While slang may be acceptable on a personal blog, it is inappropriate in article writing and will seem out of place on an informative blog.

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