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Humanities LibreTexts

11.4: Slang, Cliche, and Overly General Words

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  • Avoiding Slang

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    "Slang" describes informal words that are considered nonstandard English.

    Slang often changes with passing fads and may be used by or familiar to only a specific group of people. Most people use slang when they speak and in personal correspondences, such as emails, text messages, and instant messages.

    Slang is appropriate between friends in an informal context but should be avoided in formal academic writing.

    Exercise: Avoiding Slang

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    Edit the following paragraph by replacing the slang words and phrases with more formal language. Rewrite the paragraph on your own sheet of paper.

    I felt like such an airhead when I got up to give my speech. As I walked toward the podium, I banged my knee on a chair. Man, I felt like such a klutz. On top of that, I kept saying "like" and "um," and I could not stop fidgeting. I was so stressed out about being up there. I feel like I've been practicing this speech 24/7, and I still bombed. It was ten minutes of me going off about how we sometimes have to do things we don't enjoy doing. Wow, did I ever prove my point. My speech was so bad I'm surprised that people didn't boo. My teacher said not to sweat it, though. Everyone gets nervous his or her first time speaking in public, and she said, with time, I would become a whiz at this speech giving stuff. I wonder if I have the guts to do it again.

    Avoiding Cliches

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    Cliches are descriptive expressions that have lost their effectiveness because they are overused.

    Writing that uses cliches often suffers from a lack of originality and insight. Avoiding cliches in formal writing will help you write in original and fresh ways.

    1. Cliche: Whenever my brother and I get into an argument, he always says something that makes my blood boil.
    2. Plain: Whenever my brother and I get into an argument, he always says something that makes me really angry.
    3. Original: Whenever my brother and I get into an argument, he always says something that makes me want to go to the gym and punch the bag for a few hours.

    Avoiding Overly General Words

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    My new puppy is cute.


    My new puppy is a ball of white fuzz with the biggest black eyes I have ever seen.


    My teacher told us that plagiarism is bad.


    My teacher, Ms. Atwater, created a presentation detailing exactly how plagiarism is unethical.

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