When Slang and Quotation Marks Meet

Today, class, let’s “chat” about slang.

People like to use quotation marks around slangish words.

– Teens think it’s “cool” to smoke.
– The hoodlums demanded “protection” money from the store owner.
– The movie used too many “f-bombs.”
– My “bucket list” still has three items on it.
– He “barfed” all over the back seat.
– I thought he was going to “blow a fuse.”
– The driver was “smashed.”

Are the quotes necessary? No. People know what those words mean, and nobody is being quoted. Lose the quotes.

I see this all the time–people surrounding slang and colloquialisms with quotation marks. It’s like they think they’re doing something naughty, something educated folks don’t do. “I know this isn’t a real or proper word, so please forgive me.” As an editor, I typically remove the quotes.

There is a place for using quotes. For instance, in a few words I’ll properly surround “smashed” with quotes, because I’m calling attention to the word. Other contexts arise in which quotes seem appropriate, or at least a legitimate judgment call.

But in ordinary writing, be courageous. Use slang without apology. Own the word.

And that, class, is a wrap.

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