Substitute Outdated Language: Tip #9

Stay away from worn-out phrases and slang expressions.

A major weakness of some writers, primarily those who are either stuck in the last century or for whom English is a second language, is their frequent use of words or expressions that are either awkward, too formal for contemporary tastes, or considered antiquated or passé. “Henceforth,” “forthwith,” and “moreover” immediately come to mind as being out of touch with today’s reader. “The cat’s meow,” “let’s neck,” “picture show,”  “shake a leg,” “dowse the light,” “crank up the sound,” “lip rouge,” and hundreds more slang expressions and words and phrases that were coined in the first half of the 20th century never rolled into the 21st. These are only a few of the more obvious ones.   

Chances are you would never start a sentence with “As one might come to expect …” or “It goes without saying … (but, there, you’ve said it, anyway), “In days of yore …” or even the all-time favorite, “Once upon a time …” But, if you are an older writer, or if you spoke another language for some time before learning English, you are advised to read voraciously and listen carefully to those around you speaking English in today’s society. In particular, you should become keenly aware of the latest phraseology and slang expressions that are changing our English language on a daily basis. With the constant infusion of new buzzwords and tech-speak into our everyday speech, even those of us born and bred in the U.S. are struggling to keep up.

English is a living language, and being watchful of what works and what no longer does is essential to the way you are perceived as a writer. In the end, your material will be richer for your having done your homework, and it will be significantly fresher and more engaging to your reader.

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