Tips Tuesday: Teenspeak

Yesterday I had a great convo with a friend and his 15-year-old daughter. She was telling us about how her English teacher corrects students when they use phrases such as “like,” “sort of,” and “I mean.” I think most of us probably carry over some of that teenspeak – mine are “totally” and “it’s like….” I’ve recently tried very hard to be aware of these words when I’m speaking – easier said than done!

When I read a manuscript full of teenspeak, I make a mental note to edit it all out, 99.9% of the time. New authors, especially, are convinced that littering their dialogue or first-person narrative with teenspeak makes their book more authentic. Um, like, NO. It really doesn’t, 99.9% of the time! In fact, it has the opposite effect, and can feel contrived and a bit desperate.

Of course you want your characters to feel real. But please think about your readers – what feels “real” in written dialogue can feel ponderous to your reading audience.

About the author - Liz S.

Hi, I'm the Editor-in-Chief at Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. I've worked in the book biz for over 30 years (let's just ...

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2 comments on "Tips Tuesday: Teenspeak"

Luvelle Raevan on April 15, 2014, 10:37 p.m. said:

Luvelle Raevan

A very worthy topic…dude! Ha, no seriously I get what you mean. Teenspeak can look very contrived on the page. Even one wrong word that’s not cool according to latest trends is a giveaway the author is behind the times! It’s not only Teenspeak, it’s Coolspeak we have to be aware of – ya just can’t fake it! Imo a lot of the new North American sayings originate in California – don’t know why.

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Meg Beecher on April 21, 2014, 12:23 p.m. said:

Meg Beecher

That is very informative. I think authors want the dialogue to sound as “real” as possible and fall in that trap. Phrases do change quickly throughout the years or even months in today’s society, I agree with Luvelle that you can make a current book seem outdated with the wrong Teenspeak. Definitely something to think about. Thanks!

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