Colloquialism, Euphemism, and Slang-lish—Oh my!!!

There are many different ways to write. You write to inform, or entertain. You write to display, or narrate. You write to tell a story, or to remove doubt. You write. You are the writer. The real question is—do you want to have readers? If a writer pens a word in a forest of paper, yet no one reads it—does it make an impact?
 
The pen is yours to rule upon your written words, or for us tech-gens, the keystrokes are your story’s destiny. Dumbing down your writing, does not a reader bring. As writers, what should we be on guard against when it comes to the trifecta of unfortunate authoring? Colloquialisms. Euphemisms. Slang. There is a place for them, but knowing when and where will be the difference between knowing victory and defeat.
 

What is a colloquialism?

  • Words or phrases that are not literary or  formal
  • Words or phrases that are from everyday language
    • Off the hook
    • Totally hot
    • Ripped my heart out
    • Tickled me to death

What is a euphemism?

  • Words or phrases that are chosen for their ability to make a harsh concept, milder
    • Pass away (instead of to die)
    • Turn a trick (instead of prostitution)
    • Fall off the wagon (instead of using/drinking again)
    • On the streets (instead of homeless)
    • Take out the trash (instead of murder)

What is slang?

  • Words or phrases that are more commonly used in speech, rather than in writing
  • Words or phrases that are considered very informal
    • Supersize
    • Frenemy
    • Bromance
    • Ride (referring to a vehicle)
    • My bad
When we write, and we desire to use any of the trifecta, there are a few questions that must be answered.
  • Does the colloquialism, euphemism, or slang make the writing stronger or weaker?
  • Is the wording chosen, unique to a small portion of the world, or country?
    • An example of this, is in the amazingly successful series, Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling. Her wording was understood implicitly by her audience in Britain, but when her audience in America read that Snape had done a bunk—we had to figure out the meaning by either taking in the surrounding information, and assume we had the answer, or we jumped on Google, and figured out it meant to escape, or flee.
  • How much effort are you wanting your reader to go through, in order to read your writing?
    • A pillow is nice and soft, and has its place to elicit relaxation, but a dump truck dropping three thousand pillows on you—not exactly the same result.
    • Words or phrases placed appropriately, will engage your readers.
    • Words or phrases overused, or a story under-told because of the fluffy fillers, has a negative, and potentially lasting reaction to your readers.

“Three types of commonly used casual language include slang, colloquialisms, and euphemisms. Slang is an informal nonstandard vocabulary, usually made up of arbitrarily changed words. A colloquialism is a local or regional informal dialect or expression. A euphemism substitutes an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. When our language is too casual, audiences might not be able to follow the main ideas of the speech, or they become confused or uncomfortable.”
(Cindy L. Griffin, Invitation to Public Speaking, 3rd ed. Wadsworth, Cengage, 2009) [found on grammar.about.com]

“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, 4th ed. Longman, 1999) [found on grammar.about.com]

 

Poetry Tools

Even writers of novels will run across the need to write a poem. Take J.K. Rowling for instance—how many poems and lyrics lace the pages of her hit series Harry Potter?

Here are some quick links to help poets on their journey:
  • RHYMES: Perhaps, you need to find a rhyme that has three syllables, and rhymes on the last two? Even if you just need a quick rhyme for a simple word—this tool is what you need: RhymeZone.
  • THESAURUS: Have you been searching for a different word, it’s on the tip of your tongue, but you just…can’t…reach it? An online thesaurus is what you need: Thesaurus.
  • DICTIONARY: Do you suddenly wonder if that word means what you think it means? Inconceivable! Use an all-encompassing online dictionary: MoreWords.
  • ACROSTIC: Poe used poetry that was mathematic, and shaped. He used acrostic form to a new level. The typical definition is “a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc.” Poe used this form to hide the names of his mistresses within his art.
    • Here is a dictionary to find certain letters within the words you need (i.e. you need a seven letter word, and the fourth letter has to be an R): Acrostic Dictionary.
    • Crossword Cheats can be used in reverse to build an intense acrostic: Crossword Reverse