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Is "huge" slightly informal?

In the following sentence,

First, some people insist that Japan doesn’t need to adopt [an] austerity policy because it has a huge amount of assets at home and abroad.

I felt the word "huge" was inappropriate, thinking that it was too informal for this context. (Whereas if someone said "OMG, I have a bloody huge hangover", "huge" wouldn't be too informal)

However, meaning 1 of huge in wiktionary and dictionary.com don't describe it as slangy or informal.

Am I mistaken in thinking that it's informal? Perhaps I only think it's informal because it's a popular word in informal speech because you can lengthen the "u".

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  • I chuckled at the lengthened 'u' part of your question. In other words, "huge" is not informal, but "huuuuuuuuuge" is. I'd concur with that :^)
    – J.R.
    Aug 12, 2012 at 9:15
  • 'Prodigious' is certainly formal but doesn't collocate well here either. I'd say 'incredible assets'. Dec 22, 2022 at 15:13

7 Answers 7

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I don't regard "it has a huge amount of assets" as informal, but I do regard it as bad writing, and would instead say "it has huge assets". Note, besides not regarding it as informal, I also don't regard it as formal, nor would I regard it as formal if a synonym such as major, substantial, significant were substituted. All of those quantities are quite indefinite, and I think a formal statement (in sense of official statement) should give more-precise information about assets or debt.

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    Just my opinion, but changing "huge amount of assets" to "substantial assets" would be a huge improvement to the original. +1
    – J.R.
    Aug 12, 2012 at 9:17
  • I don't think the sentence Andrew Grimm cited could be regarded as a formal or official statement. However, I agree that that 'huge assets' is too indefinite. 'Huge assets' are of little significance if they are offset by 'huge liabilities'. But perhaps this was discussed subsequently in the source. Aug 12, 2012 at 14:07
  • Isn't "assets" a mass noun in this context?
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 12, 2012 at 23:05
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It’s probably neither here nor there, but this Google N-Gram makes me wonder whether its perceived slanginess is about its comparative newness:

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    It's not a new word. It comes from 'Middle English' which is at least 500 years old. Aug 12, 2012 at 7:19
  • a1275 The Proverbs of Ælfred 709 in An Old English Miscellany 138 Þuru þis lore and genteleri he amendit huge companie. [By this teaching and [his] noble character he put things right for a huge group/number of people.]
    – Greybeard
    Dec 22, 2022 at 21:20
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I don't think it's informal. The informal part of it depends on the way you intonate it. If you intoned it as a long u, it would sound funny and I think informal. But in writing it wouldn't make that big of a difference unless you were writing a play script.

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As a real-life example: In a first draft I described my client's customers as ranging from 'monster manufacturers with a national footprint' down to 'mom-and-pop doughnut shops'. One faction of reviewers objected to 'monster' as too slangy, another faction defended it as residing in the same register as 'mom-and-pop' (they didn't use those terms, but that's what they meant). In the end, the two factions compromised on 'huge'.

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Huge does not seem informal but it does seem a bit emotive. I seems to impart the opinion of the speaker in the example given.

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My advice

My English teacher told me that the word: huge is informal. My assignment was to write a formal E-mail with a formal letter/report as attachment. I used huge everywhere, luckily I still got a high grade because she is a friendly teacher. Your teacher or person who grades your assignment might not let you off the hook that easily as mine.

She gave me alternative examples to use instead of huge:
E.g. a huge project = a sizable/long/complicated/lengthy project

It depends if you're writing something as an assignment for school or when you're just writing something formal to business partners or something. I don't think it's a big deal in the real world, but at school teachers might think otherwise. My advice would be: If it's formal writing exercise, assignment or exam for school, avoid the word huge, especially in assignments whereby you're writing something formal or business-related.

British English considers it informal

This answer also depends on where you live and what kind of English you get thought and what your school assignment wants you to use. In British English huge is an informal word, see Oxford Learner's Dictionaries: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/huge (under 2)

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    While I tend to agree that 'huge' is less formal than say 'extensive' (and not as informal as 'monster'), ELU appreciates answers with linked references to supporting authorities. Do any dictionaries add the 'informal' caveat? Jun 17, 2023 at 13:45
  • @EdwinAshworth The thing is I didn't really understand why huge was seen as informal. Outside of my school nobody cares. A lot of supposedly informal words became everyday use. I worked for approximately 5 years as a web developer, sysadmin and tech support and I have seen the word huge used in all forms of communications. I think a lot of schools are very outdated with what's formal and what's not and often don't reflect how society currently uses words and phrases. That's why my advice is based on: Is it for school? Avoid it. And anything else, it's fine. Jun 17, 2023 at 17:46
  • Also my school is called: Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences And what I meant by avoid it when it's for school, I meant when it's an writing exercise. Outside that everybody uses huge. You might even call that hypocritical when it's not allowed in a writing exercise. The inconsistencies I often see in a lot of rules and policies is a lot and most of the times even silly. Jun 17, 2023 at 17:47
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    Collins under US usages labels the 'popular / important' sense (also purloining 'big' and 'massive') as [informal], but not the more usual ones. I'd say it's pretty complex; 'a huge majority' sounds more natural to me than 'a huge set of paintings'. Jun 17, 2023 at 18:26
  • Indeed. I live in The Netherlands, Europe and we also use British English. Therefore my university might be more strict and formal than what's really necessary. I use Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries and whatnot, but I fully agree with you. Jun 17, 2023 at 19:49
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Huge means large -- physically. Huge house, wave. If you want to say significant, important or a lot (quantity) then say THAT. It is not that it is informal or formal so much that it is inaccurate.

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    Do you have any evidence for this? Merriam-Webster gives as examples of usage: Your help made a huge difference and a dancer of huge talent. Jun 17, 2023 at 12:23
  • CD has: 'huge [adjective]: extremely large in size or amount: • They live in a huge house. / • The costs involved in building a spacecraft are huge. / • A huge number of people attended.' Jun 17, 2023 at 13:48

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