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Trying to Avoid Colloquial Language and Slang

Friday, May 18th, 2012 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | 2 Comments »

“Like, you know, that guy over there told me to say hi.”

“Guys and girls! Everyone look here!”

“I have to take my kid sister to school, then we can hang out.

Slang is everywhere.  When we use it in everyday life to communicate with friends informally, it’s usually fine. In fact, sounding too formal around our friends is kinda weird.  Slang, or colloquial language – to use the formal term – is not appropriate in academic writing and many professional communication situations.

There are a few steps you can take to avoid using colloquial language in your writing. First, you need to recognize what terms are informal and learn their formal counterparts. Here are a few common examples:

  • Kids = Children
  • Guys = Men
  • Cops =  Police Officers

While these terms, and others like them, may be colorful and add variety to your writing, they may also alienate your audience. Your reader may not be able to understand what you are saying. Take these terms for example:

  • Wicked
  • Sheila
  • Bloke

You may recognize these words (great, woman, man) if you watch a lot of BBC. These terms are commonly used in the UK and Australia, but not in the United States, so many American readers would find them confusing.

Another way to avoid being too informal as you write is to be careful when using exclamation points. Most academic writing doesn’t need them at all, but if you do like to exclaim, use them VERY sparingly!!! And never more than one at a time.

Writing in a formal tone isn’t meant to stifle your voice and stop your creativity. Use this as an opportunity to expand your vocabulary and find great ways to say what you’re thinking.

If you’re interested in seeing what is considered “slang,” or colloquial language, check out some of these sites:

 

2 Responses to “Trying to Avoid Colloquial Language and Slang”

  1. jbunny says:

    You wonder if this day and age, children don’t realize the difference between slang and appropriate language in education or the professional world. With all the text acronyms, you start to observe these in both settings. Hopefully they begin to explain the wrong places for slang in schools before the issue gets too big.

  2. […] your tone conversational. Don’t worry about colloquialisms and slang; they humanize your content. If you’re sticking to absolutely formal third person all the time, […]

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