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Clichés, Slang, Informal, and Formal English


Clichés are words and phrases that tend to be overused and do not make for good writing. They should be avoided in professional and academic writing.

Some examples of clichés are:

  • Raining like cats and dogs.
  • Like a pig in mud.
  • Over the hill.
  • In the dog house.
  • Back against the wall.
  • Under the gun.
  • My two cents.
  • Stubborn as a mule.
  • Bite your tongue.
  • Dyed in the wool.
  • Wrong side of the bed.
  • The calm before the storm.
  • Hair of the dog,
  • On thin ice.
  • Eye for an eye.
  • Tongue-in-cheek.
  • The third time is the charm.


Slang is the use of words that are not considered standard English. It should never be used in academic or professional writing. Often, these words are developed from fads or simple laziness. Sometimes slang is used by a given group and those outside the group do not understand it. Slang can also be insulting to some people or groups.

Some slang is associated with certain time periods. In the 1960s, young people used terms like groovy, cool, dude, far-out, and trippin'! Some of those terms are still used. Modern slang includes boo (boyfriend or girlfriend), baby boomers (people born between 1944 and 1963), green (money), my bad (my mistake), and shotgun (calling dibs on the front seat of a car).

The advent of the internet and other technology has added internet and texting slang to the English repertoire. Unfortunately, this kind of slang is causing many to become lazy in their writing.

Some examples of internet and texting slang are (, 2010):

  • d/l- download
  • OMG!- Oh my God!
  • LOL- Laugh out loud
  • dat- that
  • m2- me too
  • m9- mine
  • messg- message
  • s'pose- suppose
  • sed- said

Informal and Formal English

Informal English includes conversational language. Contractions such as can't, won't, and I'm. Contractions are not used in formal English. Formal English is carefully worded as in academic or professional writing. Word choice is important in formal English.

For example, in formal English one would use the word whom instead of the word who in certain situations:

Formal English: With whom did you study?
Informal English: Who did you study with?

Formal English: Did you go to the store?
Informal English: Go to the store?

Formal English: Did you finish the assignment that the professor posted?
Informal English: Did you finish the assignment the professor posted?

Clichés, slang, and contractions have no place in formal English. When one is writing an academic, business, or professional paper, email, or other correspondence, the rules of formal English must be followed. When emailing or texting friends, informal English, along with clichés, slang, and contractions is perfectly acceptable.

References Internet slang dictionary & translator. Retrieved from

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