I was recently chastised at work for using the word "cool" in an email chain--an act that I attribute to being overly-formal for no other reason than to uphold an unnecessarily perceived "law" of formality. Is there an English word that would better describe this?

  • This question probably belongs on English Language Learners because it is about communication in everyday English, and is not about the academic study of English Language. – Matt Sep 5 '13 at 5:38
  • What?! Cool is slang not formal... – Jim Sep 5 '13 at 5:53
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    @Jim I think the OP attributes his chastisement to overdone formality. – Andrew Leach Sep 5 '13 at 5:57
  • I take it you mean 'slang not informal', Jim. And without more background, one cannot comment on whether 'work' or Noob is being unreasonable here. I remember that pupils at the school where I taught were always challenging the dress code as being overfastidious, but it helped maintain overall standards. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 5 '13 at 5:58
  • @AndrewLeach- Oh I see. When I first read it it seemed he was saying that his act of using the word "cool" was overly formal... Duh... – Jim Sep 5 '13 at 5:59

The apt words are


a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.


a person who is excessively proper or modest in speech, conduct, dress, etc.


a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details.

a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense.

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    Hmm "don't use a smiley in a business email" "ahh don't be a prig!" - maybe no? – mplungjan Sep 5 '13 at 14:07
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    Pedant, eh? Looks like we have a winner! Thanks. – Noob Saibot Sep 5 '13 at 17:49

Stuffy comes to mind -

Rigidly adhering to standards of conduct; strait-laced
excessively dull, staid, or conventional

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    +1 Anal comes to mind as well ;-) – Jim Sep 5 '13 at 6:01
  • Yeah, but that is a bit OTT: anal retentive - a stage in psychosexual development when the child's interest is concentrated on the anal region; fixation at this stage is said to result in orderliness, meanness, stubbornness, compulsiveness, etc. – mplungjan Sep 5 '13 at 6:48
  • +1 as many of the alternatives are (more) insulting, at least in some contexts. – Chris H Sep 5 '13 at 11:03

Perhaps prissy would suit your meaning:-

Excessively or affectedly prim and proper.

  • The people I have met I would call prissy, MIGHT also be stuffy, but not necessarily. Prissy to me is more prudish and "Ohhh do not let your dirty dog mess up my white dress" – mplungjan Sep 5 '13 at 7:25

You might consider pompous

someone who is pompous thinks they are very important and speaks or behaves in a very serious and formal way

The term also carries with it the connotation of self-important that may or may not fit your circumstances.


"Formalist" could do ?

check definition here:

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/formalist http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/formalist

For more negative emphasis: "pedant"

maybe could also do.

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