This tag is for questions regarding formal, versus informal words and usage.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

47
votes
11answers
3k views

Is “data” considered singular or plural?

Related to this question and this question. My non-native English speaking friend just asked me: Data is ... or Data are ... I said both but that's because I've been desensitized from ...
34
votes
3answers
5k views

Alternatives to “and/or”?

As a programmer, I have no problem with seeing or using "and/or" in technical documentation. For example, I can upvote an answer that satisfies me and/or mark it as accepted. That's perfectly ...
57
votes
20answers
321k views

What are some expressions that can be used to end an email? [closed]

At the end of every email, we use ending expressions like Best regards, Kind regards, Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, What other expressions can be added to this list? Which ones should ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

Should contractions be avoided in formal emails?

In a formal email of the kind where you begin with "Dear Mr. Surname" and finish with "Best regards", for example, should we use the following contractions? Or are the non contracted forms more ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

What does “ain't” mean?

What does the contraction ain't mean? Is it appropriate to use it in formal settings?
4
votes
5answers
5k views

Why is “ain't” not listed in dictionaries?

Google finds 52,000,000 matches for ain't but non-natives simply can't look up this word. Wiktionary isn't helpful. Is it some kind of 'wildcard' for "am/is/are not"?
7
votes
8answers
11k views

“have” vs.“have got” in American and British English

I have looked through several questions and answers on EL&U, and often there is an indication that American English prefers "have" while British English prefers "have got". In addition, there are ...
21
votes
6answers
24k views

Which is correct: “prefer X to Y” or “prefer X over Y”?

Many say that "prefer X to Y" has a more formal ring to it than "prefer X over Y". Are there any dialects where you wouldn't use "prefer X to Y" in colloquial speech at all? Conversely, are there any ...
20
votes
3answers
2k views

The times they are a-changin'

I have always been intrigued by the word usage in the title of this Bob Dylan song. Wikipedia mentions that the song was influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads: Dylan recalled writing the song ...
3
votes
3answers
446 views

What are the guidelines for usage of “will” and “is/are going to”?

I use them interchangeably, however I'd like to know when one is better or more appropriate than the other.
12
votes
7answers
3k views

How do you decide which phrase to use when asking people to repeat what they said?

There are many different ways to ask people to repeat what they have just said. For example: Huh? What? Sorry? Pardon? What's that? Say that again, please I beg your pardon? I've ordered them ...
12
votes
3answers
12k views

Were contractions less common in olden days?

We just viewed the new movie True Grit. The language of the characters was more formal sounding than we are used to, largely because of the absence of contractions. Is this historically accurate? Do ...
4
votes
4answers
775 views

Can “let us” always be used in place of “let's”?

Me: Perhaps we need to make a left turn at Albuquerque Him: Let us try that Now I would have said, "Let's try that". "Let us" sounds wrong to me in this instance. Is it? Are there ...
7
votes
4answers
5k views

Is using “and/or” recommended for formal writing, or is it frowned upon?

Is using "and/or" allowed in formal writing? If not, is there general way to represent the OR binary operator with as little space as possible in written English?
16
votes
4answers
18k views

What's the difference between “informal”, “colloquial”, “slang”, and “vulgar”?

It seems many people get confused about the differences (and similarities) between "colloquial" and "slang", so what exactly does each term apply to? But to be even more thorough it seems to me we ...
12
votes
6answers
1k views

“Toward” or “towards” – what would a native speaker use?

In this question we learn that toward and towards are interchangeable, but that the former is somewhat more typical of U.S. English and the latter of British English, although there is some indication ...
4
votes
5answers
367 views

Why aren't there any common words for 'defecating' and 'urinating'?

Besides 'poo(p)ing' and 'peeing/weeing' used by and to children, besides 'shitting/crapping' and 'pissing' which are spoken, not polite, says the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, besides ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

“So long as” vs. “as long as”

Which phrase is more formal — "so long as" or "as long as"? Example: So long as Google Voice allows free long distance in North America, I will use it. As long as Google Voice allows free ...
6
votes
3answers
734 views

“just because… doesn't mean…”

It appears to me that the construction "just because… doesn't mean…" isn't used in literature at all. Is its use limited to colloquial speech and informal writing? Note that while some people seem to ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

Is the singular “they” acceptable in formal writing? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)? I am linking to this post for reference. ...
19
votes
4answers
17k views

“you” versus “You” as polite form of writing

Is it correct to write "You" with a capital Y as a form of politeness? If yes, should I use that form throughout the entire letter/document, or only at specific places?
14
votes
1answer
1k views

On the usage of “etcetera”

In Spanish, we use the word etcétera at the end of an enumeration to imply there are more things to mention, which may (or not) be important, but they will be omitted. Thus, I was fairly surprised ...
10
votes
7answers
4k views

Indian-English usage of “Kindly”

I have noticed that the word "Kindly" is used a lot by some Indians speaking English as a second language. Does anyone know the origin of this?
5
votes
2answers
8k views

What is the correct greeting to use in a formal email addressed to a department/team/company?

If the email were to be addressed to a specific person, you could write "Dear [Name]". But is it appropriate to write "Dear [Team / Department / Company]"? For example, "Dear Service Desk," and ...
9
votes
3answers
817 views

Is “get” (in the sense of “become/make”) appropriate for formal writing?

Is the use of "get + adjective/participle" appropriate for formal writing (for example, scientific papers)? I am thinking of usages analogous to get fat get inflated get sick where the meaning ...
8
votes
8answers
14k views

How often do people say “gotta”, “wanna” or “gonna” in English speaking countries?

I learned these three words from Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner's English Dictionary. got|ta /g'ɒtə/ Gotta is used in written English to represent the words 'got to' when they are ...
7
votes
4answers
4k views

What's the difference between orthography and spelling?

The terms "spelling" and "orthography" seem to be largely synonymous. What is the difference really? Is it that "orthography" is a more formal or technical term and hence more well-defined? Or is it ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

Has “may” become a formal version of “can”?

When I went to school I was taught that when asking for something you use "may I (have/do something)". "Can" was used only when asking if you are "physically capable" of something. These days I have ...
4
votes
5answers
381 views

How dangerous is the acceptance of common usage on traditional English?

I mean how far should we flow on with the current called "common usage"? Is there a fear that the real English is going do disappear someday? By the way, as for me, I like common English myself. :)
1
vote
2answers
3k views

Phrasal verbs (formal and informal use) [closed]

I'm not always comfortable with phrasal verbs. I find that Americans use a lot of phrasal verbs than say people from UK -- I might be completely wrong though. What I find most difficult with phrasal ...
0
votes
2answers
2k views

Formal alternative for “suck” [closed]

What is a more decent/formal alternative for the word suck? I want to use it in the context of being bad at something. To be precise, I want to translate "To suck less at a job every day" to formal ...
10
votes
2answers
176k views

Formally introducing yourself in an email

I am composing an email to a work associate who I have never had any dealings with before. I'm struggling to think of a formal yet succinct way of introducing myself. In person, I would probably say: ...
9
votes
6answers
1k views

learn how to [verb] vs. learn to [verb]

"learn to [verb]" "learn how to [verb]" Is [1] merely a less formal version of [2]? If not, does [1] communicate something subtly different? Consider the following: In [2], the object of learning ...
20
votes
5answers
2k views

Does America have its Versions of U- and Non-U English?

In Britain and most of Europe, some form of U-speak exists: old-money language has certain features that distinguish it from other language. In Dutch, it doesn't really have a name, but it is still ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

How and when to use “wont”

I stumbled upon this word lately, as in he was wont to come early I'm wondering what feeling it has for native speakers. For example, can I use in a meeting, or in a written report?
9
votes
3answers
6k views

Is “embiggen” considered a formal or slang word?

If my memory serves me correctly, I first encountered the word embiggen a year or so ago. I thought it seemed odd, but in context, the meaning was quite obvious. Since that time I've seen this word ...
9
votes
15answers
2k views

Informal terms for money amounts

What informal terms are used in English as money amounts? I know the following US terms and I'm curious about the rest: a grand: 1000 dollars a buck: 1 dollar
7
votes
7answers
729 views

Meaning of “No, yes …”

I'm not sure if this is something only Americans say, but it has confused me for a long time. If someone is asked a question why do some people respond with something like, "No, yes it was"? What does ...
7
votes
2answers
858 views

Is it okay to start a sentence with a Greek letter (variable)?

Is it okay to start a sentence with a variable? Do I need to rewrite a sentence just because the subject is typeset as a Greek letter? For example: Φ is treated in a special way. vs. ...
4
votes
3answers
14k views

What is a more formal way to say “Don't get me wrong”?

I think the phrase "Don't get me wrong" in conversation means, "I'm about to say something that you might misunderstand, so don't." I'm looking for a similar phrase that sounds better when speaking ...
3
votes
4answers
4k views

Is using “have” better than using “got” in the following sentence?

Take a gander at the following two versions of the same sentence: "I got an mp4 video file" vs. "I have an mp4 video file" Someone 'corrected' me by changing the first form to the second ...
1
vote
3answers
202 views

“Would you mind and do something” in nonstandard colloquial AE

Just curious, does "Would you mind and do something" instead of "Would you mind doing something" sound acceptable in spoken AE, or is it an attempt to imitate or render colloquial speech in not so ...
1
vote
1answer
8k views

“so long as” vs. “as long as”

I just googled the difference between as long as and so long as. The difference has alredy been discussed here. There are, it seems, two contexts for these expressions: lengths and physical ...
22
votes
5answers
5k views

Why should I use “ought to”?

Is "ought to" still used in modern English? If yes, in what contexts is it used, and is it used more in formal or informal cases?
20
votes
9answers
58k views

Using “dear”, “darling”, or “honey” to address a friend

As far as I know dear, darling, and honey are commonly used between lovers, but I suppose there are more words like that. What else is commonly used? Which of these can be used to address a ...
12
votes
4answers
58k views

What is the male equivalent of “mistress” in formal English?

The mistress definition, Oxford dictionary a woman having an extramarital sexual relationship, esp. with a married man I am looking for the male equivalent of 'mistress' as defined above. Some ...
12
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there an informal way to describe a woman that can not have a baby?

"Infertile"; "fruitless"? How would you describe such a woman in an informal talk to your friend?
9
votes
3answers
3k views

“Pretty” as an adverb

How correct/common/proper is "pretty" as an adverb? It is hard for me to see, since it's my native dialect, but I say "pretty often" pretty often, and "fairly often" fairly rarely. Does "pretty" mark ...
4
votes
2answers
7k views

I'd rather not [do something] vs I'd prefer not to [do something]

In this question the issue came up as to whether there's any difference in the level of politeness/correctness involved in I'd rather not say as opposed to I'd prefer not to say. My own gut feeling ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

'Therefore' in an illogical logic sense

I have a co-worker that is always saying "Therefore, A B C" when the "A B C" isn't a conclusion from any sort of deductive reasoning. For example, Me: ... thus, that's how it works. Her: I ...