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Casual language

Casual language is the language you would use when you’re talking to a friend. It is very informal in tone and full of a range of words and grammar that identify it as being casual. For example:

Idiomatic language:

The school master was a jack of all trades.


The general was gonna retreat but decided better of it.

Sentence fragments:

The trees were planted around 250 years ago. Or 260. Something like that.


Trevor’s essay was such a piece of crud that his teacher ripped it up into small pieces.

Verb contraction:

It’s not that the army was cowardly or unmotivated, just that they didn’t have the leadership they would’ve needed for success.

You usually don’t have to try very hard to write casually as for most people it’s more natural than writing highly formal language. You use casual language every day, so you get very good at using it. Sometimes, however, you may need to adapt a document you or someone else has written to make it more casual. For instance, a professor of physics at a university may have just done a presentation for a conference attended by her colleagues. Because the colleagues are all experts in the field, the conference presentation may have been pitched at a very high level, and in a very formal, mathematical manner.

Then the professor is asked to talk to the grade 12 students at the local school. She agrees, but realises a few things:

  • The students are only 16 or 17 years old so they don’t have advanced knowledge of her field. At best, some of the students may have done two or three years of low-level high school physics.

  • She’s doing the talk on a Friday afternoon so she has to keep the students interested, which means she might have to make the presentation more flashy and visual.

  • Most 16- or 17-year-olds probably prefer a casual personal presentation rather than a formal one.

So what she needs to do is ‘casualise’ her presentation, as well as make it more interesting. No, ‘casualise’ is not a word, I just made it up, but I think it’s appropriate for the situation. So how do you go about casualising something? Well, try to do more of the things in the list above. Using verb contractions is especially useful; they really give a piece of writing an informal, casual feel. Here’s what part of the original presentation might have looked like:

Greer did not utilise the secondary model when he carried out the experiment, which resulted in a slightly skewed result. However, he had forgotten to compensate for the deviation by incorporating the second constant into the equations. This resulted in the final experimental results being useless, which meant he had wasted over a year in experimentation.

Applying the casualising process, we can get something like the paragraph shown below. I’ve changed bits like ‘he had’ and ‘did not’ to ‘he’d’ and ‘didn’t’ - making it more casual by using verb contractions. Also, to make it more suitable for a high-school audience, I’ve replaced some of the more complex words and phrases with simpler words - ‘utilise’ becomes ‘use’, ‘slightly skewed result’ becomes ‘the result wasn’t right’, and so on. Remember not to go too far overboard and baby your audience - I’m sure most high schoolers would hate being treated like they are in grade one!

Greer didn’t use a secondary model when he did the experiment, which meant the result wasn’t right. This was because he’d forgotten to put an important second constant into one of the equations. This meant he’d wasted over a year doing experiments.