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I'm writing a statement letter (SOP for graduate school), and I wanted to use "mind-blowing" in a less-formal segment of my letter. Is that too informal for a personal statement or cover letter, or is it just giving a more casual/friendly tone at an acceptable level to my writing?

(I'm using "mind-blowing" as an adjective that is supposed to mean "very impressive".)

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As our English professor used to say, "When in doubt, leave it out," and the difference between being ambiguous 'on purpose' versus 'by accident' is one letter grade...at least.

So, in a way, you may have already answered your own question (in your footnote):

(I'm using "mind-blowing" as an adjective that is supposed to mean "very impressive".)

Synonyms & Antonyms for mind-blowing (per Merriam-Webster; see link below):

Synonyms

breathtaking, charged, electric, electrifying, exciting, exhilarating, exhilarative, galvanic, galvanizing, hair-raising, heart-stopping, inspiring, intoxicating, mind-bending, mind-boggling, rip-roaring, rousing, stimulating, stirring, thrilling

Antonyms

unexciting

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mind-blowing

Therefore, it wouldn't be surprising if someone thought you meant very exciting (in some way) if the context is lacking or ambiguous.

Not at all to say that very impressive, or overwhelmingly so, isn't a well-known (albeit informal) definition of mind-blowing...

mind-blowing

ADJECTIVE (informal):

Overwhelmingly impressive.

‘for a kid, Chicago was really mind-blowing’

More example sentences:

‘The maestro himself blows a mean horn with unbelievable energy and mind-blowing skill and has the kind of stage presence so-called pop idols cannot be taught.’

‘It is described as a mind-blowing journey into spectacular, futuristic maze-like ‘worlds of wonder’.’

‘Support fat loss and gain more energy in the process - the benefits of this amazing supplement are mind-blowing!’

‘There was - is - no question: Peter Jackson has roared back into theatres with the mind-blowing Part Two of the greatest fantasy epic in movie history.’

‘A work of cinema so visceral, so powerful, so incredibly mind-blowing must be seen to be believed.’

‘And, then, before he knew it, another song had started up; the same voice, the same wonderful, mind-blowing music.’

‘This record is impressive, but not mind-blowing.’

‘‘We've had more corporate donations and it's just mind-blowing the support we've received,’ Emma continued.’

The list goes on; they give a dozen more examples for this definition (see link below).

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/mind-blowing

Just FYI, this is another definition of mind-blowing (same source):

(of a drug) inducing hallucinations.

Example sentences:

‘This teaching has warped more minds than any mind blowing drug has ever done.’

‘The 1960s was the decade of mind-blowing drug experimentation.’

Curiously, this is the second meaning in Oxford Dictionaries but the first in Merriam-Webster (which states that this is the meaning of its first recorded use in 1966).

In conclusion, I would say (as our professor did)...be yourself, but know your audience. Some things are mind-blowing. That is, the word seems less informal to me when used in its proper context, as in the example sentences above (excluding the ad for the amazing supplement). That being said...not everything in the 80s was awesome (e.g. That was awesome, dude!--referring to a milkshake), so I would caution you: Mind-blowing is the new awesome...I think, so I would use it sparingly. Words like those can be addictive.

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  • "mind-blowing adjective informal" (Oxf.) note the " informal".
    – Kris
    Nov 2, 2018 at 9:25
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    @KannE: looking at the definitions you give, it looks like there is a difference between the British and American uses of mind-blowing (a surprising, but not quite mind-blowing fact). Nov 3, 2018 at 14:36
  • @KannE, my point was not to second your "answer" or that I did not get the gist of your answer. I meant to say that the answer is quite there in the public domain and the Question is GR. This answer is superfluous. Beyond that it's for writingSE and/or academiaSE.
    – Kris
    Nov 5, 2018 at 9:35
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mind-blowing OED colloquial.

Frequency Band 3. (not commonly found in general text types like novels and newspapers, but at the same they are not overly opaque or obscure)

astonishing, overwhelming; consciousness-altering (esp. as a result of drug use), that ‘blows one's mind’

As in The Wall Street Journal - a prestigious news/financial magazine in the U.S.:

2000 Wall St. Jrnl. Jan. Films about the future grew trippy and navel-gazing, eschewing action and coherent plot for mind-blowing images and wild ideas.

and

Going back to these races is mind-blowing for me,” says Rodgers. Salon Oct 17, 2018

and

It’s not all designer brands either: Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe is a great brunch spot that does a mind-blowing blackberry custard french toast. The Guardian Oct 17, 2018

In AmE, rules are fluid. As tech is a burgeoning field its usage is more prevalent. Keep in mind your context and intended audience when using mind-blowing.

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  • In the second example, the word appears in a quotation, so its presence does not really indicate what the editors of the Salon think about its formality. Also, the fact that the WSJ uses the term to characterise the images in the films about the future, does not imply that its editors would tolerate its use in other contexts, to mean nothing more than very impressive, which is the sense in which the OP is considering using it.
    – jsw29
    Nov 4, 2018 at 4:03

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