General WritingResearch and CitationTeaching and TutoringSubject-Specific WritingJob Search WritingESL
OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

Appropriate Language: Overview

Summary:

This handout will cover some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.

Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2012-06-04 02:19:59

When writing, it is very important to use language that fits your audience and matches purpose. Inappropriate language uses can damage your credibility, undermine your argument, or alienate your audience. This handout will cover some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and Euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.

The following is a short overview of the different aspects of using appropriate language. Review the other sections of this handout for a more complete discussion.

  1. Levels of Formality: Writing in a style that your audience expects and that fits your purpose is key to successful writing.
  2. In-Group Jargon: Jargon refers to specialized language used by groups of like-minded individuals. Only use in-group jargon when you are writing for members of that group. You should never use jargon for a general audience without first explaining it.
  3. Slang and idiomatic expressions: Avoid using slang or idiomatic expressions in general academic writing.
  4. Deceitful language and Euphemisms: Avoid using euphemisms (words that veil the truth, such as "collateral damage" for the unintended destruction of civilians and their property) and other deceitful language.
  5. Biased language: Avoid using any biased language including language with a racial, ethnic, group, or gender bias or language that is stereotypical.

Copyright ©1995-2014 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.