I was drawn to the word, “kinda, sorta” which appeared in the article of Time magazine (April 27) under the headline, “The Clippers Should Have Boycotted Game After Owner’s Racist Remarks”:

The circumstances were unprecedented. The players, most of whom are black, had to represent an owner whose allegedly racist views - the team kinda, sorta questioned the authenticity of the audio - were now broadcast to the world.


GoogleNgram shows that the “kinda-sorta”emerged around / in 1920, and its usage has been shooting up since 1980.

However, answers.yahoo.com says:

"kinda-sorta" is not proper English. You shouldn't use it in any essays or articles or anything proper that you might write. It will make you sound unintelligent.

Is it too naive for me to presume that the word "kinda-sorta" is usable in (not-too-formal) writing as well as in speaking, now that I’ve seen the word being used in one of leading English language journals?

  • 1
    People say it, so it depends on what style of writing we’re talking about. I wouldn’t use it in a peer-reviewed academic research paper; I might well use it in a piece of email.
    – tchrist
    Apr 28, 2014 at 22:23
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    Not necessarily relevant to the question, but I would never use kinda-sorta at all: I would use sorta-kinda. I wonder if the order of the constituents in this compound is dialectal, sociolectal, idiolectal, or just completely random. Apr 28, 2014 at 22:33
  • @Janus, I use both, but I think they mean different things. Not that I could articulate the difference to save my life, mind you.
    – Marthaª
    Apr 28, 2014 at 22:50
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    I'm sorry you had no other responses. :( The question deserved other answers. Apr 29, 2014 at 9:59
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    As @medica's good answer explains, this is quite a subtle issue. Let me just say that I think you are free to disregard any instruction that says anything as ridiculous as "[word] is not proper English. You shouldn't use it in any essays or articles or anything proper that you might write. It will make you sound unintelligent." Apr 30, 2014 at 13:54

2 Answers 2


Hmm, that's a hard one. Not only are kinda and sorta both slang, and not often used in quality writing (unless to capture dialogue), this is a compound-slang word.

This is going to be an opinion-based answer, no mater who gives it. So I'll state mine.

I think for all but formal writing, it's fine. Most people will recognize the word as a humorous redundancy that quite captures the writer's (or his subject's) complex feelings.

New York Times bloggers have used it (blog in parentheses):

  • Pataki Kinda Sorta Not Running in ’08? (The Empire Zone)
  • ‘The Simpsons’ Explains Its Kinda-Sorta Feud With Fox News (ArtsBeat)

Other "good" blogsites (journalist, not personal):

  • Deep Ellum Is Kinda, Sorta, Maybe Back on Top! (Maybe.) (Dallas Observer)
  • Kinda Sorta Impeaching the President (Washingtom Post)
  • 9th Circuit to bloggers: You're all journalists now, kinda sorta (LA Times)

No they should not have been used in that context - it is slang English; and as such only be used if being quoted as speech or if someone was writing an informal note to a friend.

If the article had quoted a player as saying "we kinda-sorta felt that we...." that would be acceptable as a direct quote.

To note normally newspapers/press articles are normally considered to be formal writing.

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