From what i understand, an author is supposed to conform to proper grammatical convention both when writing in third-person and first-person narrative.

Is a sentence like this considered "acceptable" in a first-person narrative?

And I was gonna make them pay.

I feel that the slang usage adds an element of character to the narrative, as the character doesn't think with perfect grammar. On the other hand, i don't feel like i see this too often.

  • This question is actually based on a story someone posted to a forum several years ago, and this was one of the criticisms.
    – Scimonster
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 9:55

3 Answers 3


When writing in first person limited view you are basically writing in the voice of the character. So you should make what they say authentic. Therefore in the right circumstances this is perfectly acceptable.

My advice would be to leave it in and write the story that way. Then when it is done you can get a feel for if it "works" in that context.

I have seen this and far more "gritty" language used in what are known as "stream of consciousness" narratives. It can be a very effective tool.

My only advice on slang and "flavour language" is that it is like salt - a little really improves a dish but too much spoils it. Add enough to bring the narrative to life and give the character an authentic voice but not so much that it is hard to read.


For the most part an author should try to conform to grammatical conventions as that makes it easier for people to read. However, this isn't a set in stone rule. You are free to violate "proper" grammatical conventions in both first-person and third-person narratives. It is best if you have a decent grasp of the conventions you violate—that knowledge will help you know when you can get away with breaking a certain rule and when you can't.

As for your sentence, it is perfectly acceptable if it fits the character who is saying or thinking it. Consider the examples below to see how two famous writers handled this sort of speech.

James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man opens with "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo..." That novel is a third-person narrative and the diction changes as the main character grows up.

William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is an excellent example of multiple first-person narratives where the diction changes to match the character speaking. Some of the characters talk more "proper" than others. For instance, take a section from Darl's point of view:

Pa leans above the bed in the twilight, his humped silhouette partaking of that owl-like quality of awry-feathered, disgruntled outrage within which lurks a wisdom too profound or too inert for even thought. (Faulkner, As I Lay Dying)

Now compare it with a section from Anse's point of view:

Durn that road. And it fixing to rain, too. I can stand here and same as see it with second-sight, a-shutting down behind them like a wall, shutting down betwixt them and my given promise. I do the best I can, much as I can get my mind on anything, but durn them boys. (Faulkner, As I Lay Dying)


Yes. Not only is it acceptable, if you don't do it your character will not reflect what you are trying to portray and the reader will not understand the character as intended.

Think of it this way: everyone is different, talks different, and behaves different. If you are writing about people, should they all behave like you? Or should they be different too? Draw inspiration from the world and make all of your characters different. Don't worry about going too strong with slang or overusing words. That can all be corrected in editing. Write, then read it over and see what you think.

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