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Engaging Writing: Avoiding Casual Language

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Engaging Writing: Avoiding Casual Language

Last updated: 4/21/2016


Visual: The words “Walden University Writing Center” and the Walden University Writing Center logo on a blank page of a notebook with a pencil. The slogan “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears. The screen shifts to present the words “Engaging Writing” with the title “Avoiding casual language” underneath.

Audio: Music plays.


Visual: A slide appears that is titled “DON’T: Casual Language.” Underneath is a definition reading, “cliches and colloquialisms cannot be universally translated and might confuse some readers. Instead, use straightforward and literal language.” Beneath this is chart. On the left side of the chart is a column labeled: “Instead of this…” with examples of what not to do listed. On the right side of the chart is a column labeled: “Use this:” with example of how to rephrase.

The items on the chart includes

Instead of this: The doors were closed to advancement. Use this: There was no way to advance.

Instead of this: In light of recent research… Use this: Based on recent research…

Instead of this: It was a slippery slope to failure. Use this: Failure occurred easily.

Instead of this: The researchers were getting results. Use this: The researched collected results.

Instead of this: My journey through literature has led to… Use this: Based on the articles I read… or the literature I read caused me to think…

Audio: Casual language. Now, I think a lot of times when we enter into the realm of academia, when we start to write in an academic way, it becomes challenging for us as writers because we want to write how we speak. And that's actually not a good way to write. Because we are writing for different audiences, different, what we would consider discourse communities, you know, writing is a very different kind of communication than speaking is.

So when we're writing in the academic audience or for an academic audience, rather, we want to be sure that we are using academic tone and avoiding that conversational language.

So things like, metaphors, things that are considered clichés or maybe idioms, you know, those are things that we want to avoid because they can't always be translated to readers that maybe are not familiar culturally with the language. And it might even just confuse some readers, even, you know, native readers who are strong readers, might just be confused by the use of language.

So when I think of clichés and idioms, I think of an experience that I actually had where someone asked me in -- from another culture – asked me if I had fallen out of a sugar sack as a child, and I had no idea what she was saying. And I came to find out that it was -- it was a cliché for, you know, an idiom for, you are a very sweet person. So it can be very confusing as a reader to read those kinds of things in your writing.

So instead of saying "the doors were closed to advancement," you can actually say "there was no way to advance." Or instead of "it was a slippery slope to failure." You know, you could say "failure occurred easily."

And so avoiding those kind of more metaphorical, more cliché phrases will definitely help to keep your readers engaged because they won't be confused. And I think it's -- it's a little bit different than what we would expect, because when we think of engaging writing, we don't think, “I have to be creative; I have to really, you know, draw my readers in with my creativity,” but you can do that while still staying within the bounds of the rules and standards of academic writing. And that's where the syntax and the style, and the punctuation and sentence structure all kind of work together.


Visual: The words “Walden University Writing Center” and the Walden University Writing Center logo on a blank page of a notebook with a pencil. In the middle it says, “Questions? E-mail”