Informal Words To Avoid in Professional Writing

by | May 6, 2022 | GrammarSpot, Writing Tips | 0 comments

I’ve been freelance writing for several years now, and one of the most essential things I’ve learned is the importance of switching voice and tone to fit the subject matter. Writing blog posts for GrammarSpot allows me to let loose and break away from the pomp and “black tie affair” professional writing rules.

That being said, when I do change back into my formal writing tux, I have to make sure I leave all my relaxed and casual writing rules behind and become aware of informal words to avoid.


Informal Words To Avoid in Professional Writing

informal words

Wearing sneakers with a suit might be acceptable in the modern fashion industry, but the same can’t be said when it comes to professional writing. Here are a few informal words, accessories, garments and jewels to cast off before you strut down the writing red carpet.



If you’re familiar with Dead Poets Society, then you already know the sin of the informal word very. Much like adverbs weigh your writing down, the use of very prevents it from truly taking off on the page (or screen).

If an adverb like very is necessary, consider using genuinely, profoundly, undoubtedly or exceedingly instead. These words might sound a bit highfalutin, but you have to remember you’re writing to a professional audience; seeing these professional words will likely be like music to your audience’s eyes. There might even be tears.



informal words and phrases using contractions

This represents all contractions, even though I must admit I throw in contractions with most of my writing, formal or not. This is because it may come across as a bit foreign and somewhat clipped to separate words into their individual forms. For professional writing, your audience might feel as if you’re–excuse me, you are being lazy by using contractions. You do not want your use of contractions to be misconstrued as being potentially disrespectful to your formal audience.

What it comes down to is your audience. If your writing style is meant to be personal or conversational, then using contractions is acceptable in a formal setting. Otherwise, you should remove informal words with contractions from your writing.


A Lot

While I always appreciate seeing a lot written as two words rather than one, there’s a lot of risk involved with using this informal word in professional writing. The reason for this is a lot isn’t a precise quantity. There’s also the fact that your definition of a lot and your audience’s definition might be two different things. Snatch out this particular word pair and replace it with the exact amount or number. Vagueness will do you no favors in professional writing.


Kind Of/Sort Of

The use of kind of and sort of are quite sneaky, mainly because their use has become so ingrained in our speech and writing patterns that we might not notice just how informal they truly are. Thankfully, dressing these phrases in their Sunday best is easy. Just use type of or in the category of instead.



professional words

When referring to a group of people or individuals, it’s best to refer to them as just that, people and individuals rather than folks, girls or guys. With mixed company, it’s best to use either people or individuals, men with a group of males, and women with a group of females. Girls, folks and guys is a bit too carefree, and it might even come across as insulting for some. Cut your losses and keep it strictly professional rather than try and use these informal words.


A Time and Place for Informal Words

While there definitely is a time and place for using informal words, writing in a professional setting just isn’t it. Do you have any informal words to avoid and leave off the guest list to a professional writing soiree? RSVP in the comments below.

O'Brian Gunn
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