Questions tagged [formality]

This tag is for questions about formal (versus informal) words and usage. The question must identify a particular concern about the formality of the word or phrase at issue, and specify the target context or audience.

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425
votes
6answers
142k views

Did English ever have a formal version of "you"?

From the top of my head, Danish "De" (practically never used), German "Sie", Chinese "您", French "vous", Spanish "usted" are a formal way of addressing someone, especially if one isn't familiar with ...
95
votes
20answers
577k views

Which expressions can be used to close an email? [closed]

At the end of written communication like emails and letters, it is customary to use a closing valediction or "complementary close". Which formal and informal expressions can be used to end emails?
90
votes
12answers
16k views

Is "data" treated as singular or plural in formal contexts?

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 reading/writing both (especially from writing code and ...
77
votes
18answers
74k views

A formal way to say "I don't want to sound too cocky..."

Allow me to clear the situation. I was talking with my professor about a piece of software that I had developed. While we were discussing, I wanted to say something like I don't want to sound too ...
68
votes
10answers
117k 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 good ...
65
votes
15answers
93k views

When to use "nude" and when "naked"

The question is quite clear. Is there any difference (semantically or connotationally, if that's a word) between nude and naked? Nude seems more formal to me, but I'm not quite sure. Interesting: ...
60
votes
6answers
239k 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 ...
59
votes
17answers
25k views

"Can I" vs "May I" in restaurant setting when ordering

A while back, while we were getting fast food, my friend commented on my usage of "can" versus "may" when asking to take my order. I said: Can I have a ....... and my friend argued you're ...
56
votes
14answers
780k views

More formal way of saying: "Sorry to bug you again about this, but ..."

I was wondering if there was a more formal and polite way of saying: Sorry to bug you again about this, but we still have not received a response about X .... (if we still have not received any ...
41
votes
3answers
58k views

Is "misconfigured" a word?

I use the word "misconfigured" all the time, but MS Word, Chrome, and the two dictionaries I checked don't list it as a word. I'm going to keep using it instead of "configured incorrectly" because I ...
38
votes
16answers
13k views

Verb meaning "to alter someone's famous saying"

I'm looking for a single verb, or at least a succinct way of saying that you are slightly, but intentionally, modifying a famous phrase. For example, if I were to refer to Alexander the Great's ...
38
votes
14answers
8k views

What can be used as formal euphemism of "hack"?

I'm writing a technical document, and I need to convey the fact that we had to find a non-optimal, non-orthodox solution that was adopted as the best available alternative (a hack) to solve an ...
36
votes
9answers
204k 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 ...
36
votes
5answers
10k 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 as ...
35
votes
4answers
169k 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?
33
votes
5answers
142k views

'the USA' vs. 'the US'

I am writing an essay where I need to make a reference to the United States of America. Often I hear this shortened to the US, but sometimes people also say the USA. Are there any difference between ...
30
votes
4answers
78k 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 ...
28
votes
5answers
21k 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?
28
votes
2answers
132k views

Can I use "therefore", "so", "hence" and "thus" interchangeably?

I was taught that, at least, 'therefore' and 'so' and can be used interchangeably, one being informal, the other formal. But, even when written, replacing 'so' with 'therefore' doesn't seem correct. ...
27
votes
5answers
97k views

What are sentences like "the longer X, the more Y" called and can they be used in formal written English?

What is the type of sentence exemplified below called? Is it appropriate to use it in a scientific paper and formal written English in general? 1. The more pronounced the variation, the more the ...
25
votes
5answers
7k views

Is writing the pronoun "i" in lowercase a feature of Indian English?

The Rule The personal pronoun “I” is always capitalized in English, regardless of its position in a sentence. This is an orthographic convention that every native speaker should know. Whenever I ...
24
votes
7answers
15k 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?
24
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5answers
3k views

Are contractions of "I am" or "I would" rude? [duplicate]

I got edited on Stack Overflow because I used "I'm", "you're" and "I'd" instead of "I am" etc. Is it considered rude to use contractions like that in informal conversations on the internet? I would ...
24
votes
9answers
221k 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 (close/...
23
votes
8answers
105k views

Usage of double dots (..) Is it formal?

I am sure that this wouldn't have much meaning, but still want to get acknowledged whether usage of double dots is formal. I have observed people using double dots in business Emails. Usually while ...
22
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
21
votes
6answers
432k 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 ...
21
votes
4answers
27k views

Avoiding stuffy language: "Therefore", "Thus"

In my thesis, I'm using "thus" and "therefore" a lot. This is repetitive and it sounds stuffy. Is there any alternative which sounds a bit more relaxed but is acceptable in ...
20
votes
6answers
490k views

Formal way to tell someone they accidentally sent you someone else’s email?

I have received an email from someone at work. He’s quite senior and probably would get quite angry to get an “accusing” message like: I wasn’t supposed to get this email. It looks like you sent me ...
19
votes
8answers
226k 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 pronounced > ...
19
votes
6answers
4k views

Does the word "newbie" have a negative connotation?

Imagine that I'm running a friendly and informal online business. I would like to introduce my service to the new customers by a blog post that entitles, 'Are you a newbie to XYZ.com?'. Will that ...
18
votes
8answers
4k views

Is there a term for ascribing acts of the human mind to non-human objects, and when is it appropriate to do this?

Nota bene: English isn't my native language, so when I say acts of the human mind, I attempt to generalize things such as making assumptions, drawing conclusions and (to some extent) to reject. To me ...
16
votes
4answers
9k views

Can I use the F-word in a formal context? [closed]

I want to ask whether I can use the word "Fuck" in a formal context. Apparently, the word dates back to the early 16th century, so it shouldn't be considered slang (although, it is misused as slang ...
16
votes
3answers
3k views

Does the word candidate have to refer to a person?

I was helping a friend create a motivational letter for a scholarship and I wrote a sentence in the lines of: "(...), which would qualify my project as a candidate for the Program". We changed this ...
16
votes
5answers
119k views

"Much obliged" — Old-fashioned? Polite? Pedantic?

I've heard someone say "Much obliged!" a couple of times, instead of the usual "Thank you!". A common phrase in Portuguese ("Muito Obrigado") and maybe other languages, but certainly unusual in ...
16
votes
5answers
184k views

What's the difference between "teacher" and "professor"?

Is one more formal then the other?
16
votes
1answer
8k 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 ...
15
votes
6answers
157k views

"By the way" in formal writing

Can I say "By the way" in an official document or professional meeting and other important/formal times? I never saw any film which would include these words.
15
votes
9answers
268k views

When ending an email, should I use "Yours faithfully" or "Best regards"?

I've been taught to end business letters with "Yours faithfully" but I can see from my daily correspondence that "Best regards" is more commonly used but seems more informal. What term should be used ...
15
votes
6answers
3k views

Are "betwixt", "trebble", etc., acceptable in American English?

I grew up speaking British English. The words I learnt were occasionally marked off in papers, despite their being English words. Are words like betwixt, trebble, learnt acceptable in papers for ...
15
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
68k 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 ...
14
votes
6answers
4k views

Is there a case where "of the clock" is more appropriate then "o'clock"?

In formal papers, I've always been told to avoid contractions, but unlike "do not" versus "don't", I don't think that I have ever heard "of the clock" spoken aloud. Is there a case (aside from time ...
14
votes
6answers
33k 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?
14
votes
2answers
289k 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: ...
14
votes
5answers
20k 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 ...
14
votes
7answers
14k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
26k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
118k views

“Make sure to” vs. “Be sure to”: Is the first one correct?

These two versions below are used interchangeably where I live now in the United States: Make sure to do something. Be sure to do something. But I always have found the first version clumsy. It ...
14
votes
1answer
340k views

How to wish someone "Happy New Year" in a professional, formal and friendly way [closed]

English is my second language. I still struggle with it especially when I have to write a formal email. I need to send an email to several of my business associates in reply to theirs. It contains ...

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