Imagine the following common conversation:

Q: What are you up to?

A. The usual

Now imagine it spoken by certain kids these days:

Q: What are you up to?

A: The yooooshj.

My question pertains to the utterance "yooooshj," which is a shortened form of "usual" made up solely of its first syllable.

When writing dialog in fictional narrative, how do you spell something like this?

How, in general, do you handle slang that has questionable spelling?

  • 1
    I would stay away from that as it might come through as trying to sound "in" too hard--as @RobtA says. Besides, how is that form shortened?
    – Lew
    Jun 3, 2017 at 23:38
  • I don't write about people who say "The yooshj." Problem solved. :) Jun 12, 2017 at 21:03
  • 1
    Not even to say something derogatory about them (like you just did)?
    – John Wu
    Jun 12, 2017 at 21:43

5 Answers 5


I advise you to avoid the slang spelling, unless it will be commonly understood. There is no particular criterion for this.

For the example you gave, my answer is a firm "maybe." Would your target readership grasp that? If so, OK. If not, then substitute something such as:

He mumbled, "The usual," in that childish manner designed to irritate me.

But this works both ways. My suggestion is rather formal, which might not be sytlistically compatible with its surroundings.


There's no hard and fast rule --you want to make it as readily recognizable as possible. Sometimes there's an accepted slang spelling. If so, find it and use it. If not, if you can construct it out of known words, do so. If not, give the simplest phonetic rendition (rather than the most accurate one).

"kewl" (for "cool", it's a well-known written variation)
"adorbs" (for "adorable", since it's easy to break the real word in half)
"the yoosh" (for "the ususal", since "ush" doesn't help phonetically or lexically)

In general, use it sparingly, for color and flavor. Slang is inherently distancing by nature, and readers will easily tire of too much of it.

  • Do you think this is different if the protagonist is struggling to understand the speaker?
    – Andrey
    May 2, 2018 at 18:42
  • @Andrey - Yes, in that case you would go pure phonetic to emphasize the fact that the listener is going purely by sound and doesn't understand the meaning at all. May 2, 2018 at 19:40

Go for it. It's better to show, not tell. Don't describe accents, include them in your dialogue. Just be consistent with spellings and try to get them as close to the standard spelling as possible. Of course the challenge is balancing that with clarity for the reader.

Don't use three 'o's if you are emphasizing the 'yoozh' as a short form. Extra vowels convey length.

If your character is going to say 'usual' the 'yoozh' or 'yuzh' you could explain it the first time it's encountered.

Perhaps something like this: ''What are you up to?''

''The usual,''pronouncing it the yoozh, in that youthful affectation.
''Like what?''

''Chilling, Facebooking, just the yoozh. Sup?''

  • +1 - esp. for the italicisation (which you've done but not mentioned), and I'd also add in an apostrophe for the missing syllable ( The yoozh' )
    – komodosp
    May 2, 2018 at 15:35

Non-english speaker here. I would go for it. If the pronunciation is easy to get, the reader would immediately understand the sound, and therefore the meaning, even if he never heard the term. Either the sound would sound like something he knows, either it will remind a slang he's aware of.

Once I read about kids in a novel repeating "I dunno" all the time. I had never heard the slang for "I don't know" before, but after few times I got the meaning. It's better to add some "colour" than to go over heavy exposition ("I don't know", he said, in his typical accent - a very bad choice in my opinion).


I don't recommend phonetic spelling of slang. There are two issues (1) The validity of the word (2) The sound of the word.

The urban dictionary contains a comprehensive list of slang. I recommend you consult it.

Your conversation would probably read:

"Wassup?" "Same ol'"

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