Slang is very informal language. It is usually specific to members of a certain generation, nationality, or ethnic group. Slang can also be specific to “fandoms”–that is, fans of a particular movie, TV series, pop group, sports team, video game, etc. Indeed, the word “fandom” itself is a form of slang; it combines “fan” with “kingdom”.
Using slang is fine when you are chatting with your friends. This includes workplace friends. In most workplaces, it is certainly okay for a group of colleagues to use slang while they are enjoying a cup of coffee or doing small, routine tasks.
What about written communications?
Some slang is okay for casual business emails or texts between friendly colleagues. Here is an example:
Sure, the meeting will be over in time for lunch–if you normally eat lunch at 4pm, LOL!
“LOL”, an acronym for Laugh Out Loud, was first used in the 1980s and became popular on Usenet in the 1990s. Now it’s one of the most widely used online slang expressions.
When slang is not okay
Although some forms of slang are acceptable in the workplace, such as the LOL example above, there are times when you will want to avoid it. If you are thinking about using a slang term in a business email or some other written communication at work or school, here are some points to consider:
1. Is this a formal situation?
If you are writing a formal business email, a scholarly paper, or a cover letter for a resume or job application, you should avoid using slang. It will make you seem unprofessional.
2. Who will be reading your text?
If you are writing a casual message to a friend who is close to your age and comes from a similar background, you probably know many of the same slang expressions. There are also certain words and expressions that are familiar to a wide variety of people (such as “LOL”, which we mentioned earlier).
However, keep in mind that slang changes over time. If you are in your twenties, “dope” means that something is excellent or cool. However, if you use “dope” in an email to a sixty-year-old colleague, that person is likely to think you are referring to illegal drugs. If you are communicating with someone who speaks English as a second language, they might only be familiar with the dictionary definition of “dope”, which means a stupid person.
3. Could the slang term offend someone?
In UK English, there is a certain slang term for a cigarette that is used as an anti-gay slur in North America. Other slang terms, such as “dude” or “bro” or “you guys” can make your female colleagues feel excluded.
4. Are you in your late teens or early twenties?
If you are young and tend to use a lot of slang, your older colleagues and those in senior positions might not take you seriously. They might think of you as “just a kid.”
Of course, there are contexts where knowing the latest slang can work to your advantage. Maybe you work in marketing and you are launching a campaign on social media that is targeted to teenagers. Maybe you are writing a novel and one of your characters uses certain slang expressions.
If you are uncertain about whether or not a word is slang, get help from one of our editors by clicking the link below to make sure you are using the word appropriately. However, since our TextRanch editors come from a variety of backgrounds, we strongly recommend that you leave a note for your editor, explaining any possible slang terms or unique spellings you are using. When we know more about what you want to say, we can give you much better recommendations!
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One Reply to Slang: Is it Okay for Business Emails?
I think a principle which I was told in a previous workplace is worth to consider. Only choose wording that won’t cause embarrasing or confusing as if the wording is for a newspaper headline or article in the front page.
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