Having to deal with the evolution of the English language.


There is no shortage of writing advice out there. Everywhere you look, there are writers, bloggers and teachers advocating proper grammar, proper spelling, use of punctuation etc.etc.

Now as you know, I love classic English literature. As a result, I tend to write in a very similar style. However, I HAVE written a few stories set in modern times- my head is not always in the past, surprisingly. The thing is that when I am working on a piece of modern (or is it contemporary?) fiction, I am sometimes faced with a dilemma: normal people, the general population that is, very rarely apply the rules of the English language anymore. What I’m trying to say is, very few people actually speak properly.

Hence the phrase I don’t know has become “dunno”, I’m going to has become “I’m gonna” and the word BECAUSE in its entirety has ceased to be. Instead it has been shortened to “cause’, “coz” or “cuz” (Cuz that’s how it is, dawg!).

So the issue here is this: maybe it’s just me but I sometimes feel guilty to employ the above slang in modern dialogue.

courtesy of cartoonstock.com

With so much emphasis placed on writing good English, I sometimes feel the need to have my characters speaking correctly, even if it’s against my greater judgment.

Let’s take for example, a conversation between two teenagers. I don’t know about you but I know very few teenagers who actually speak proper English day to day, and even then, they might only save it for the classroom or when conversing with adults, giving speeches etc. So when writing their dialogue, would it make sense to have them sound like they’ve just stepped out of a time machine that has just arrived from the 19th century?

Can we balance good English with modern realism?

And because I don’t read much modern fiction, I am struggling to find examples of where authors have their characters speaking in this informal manner. I can’t remember ever reading a character saying “I dunno” or “Coz I said so” or my personal favourite, the double negative: “I ain’t done nothing.” Yet people in movies and in real life often talk like this.

For those of you who are sticklers for the proper use of our beloved language, would you be annoyed if you had to read dialogue like this? You might tolerate it if it was only one character, who spoke like this, but what if a whole novel was about a group of kids and the dialogue throughout the book was written in this fashion?

Like I said, I don’t read many modern contemporary novels and the few that I’ve read, pretty much stick to the rules of good English. I’m sure, however, that there are plenty of books out there that employ this form of colloquialism. If you know any such books, let me know won’t you? If they are written by famous authors, maybe I won’t feel so guilty…

Otherwise any other thoughts, as you know, are most welcome.   🙂