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Informal: This is the broadest, most neutral word.

. It just means that speech or writing is on the lower side of the formalmiddleinformal spectrum. In informal situations, when your conduct is relaxed in all respects and etiquette matters less, you will use informal language accordingly. Apart from that, it is neither negative nor positive; that's why it is the best term if you don't want to sound disapproving (and if colloquial is not an option). There are various degrees of (in)formality: it is usually not a yesno distinction. Colloquial:
Oxford English Dictionary: 2. spec. Of words, phrases, etc.: Belonging to common speech; characteristic of or proper to ordinary conversation, as distinguished from formal or elevated language. (The usual sense.)

This is quite close to informal. It is mostly used with speech rather than writing, though not necessarily so. The word is also slightly stronger on average than informal (i.e. more informal). It suggests a yesno qualification: saying more colloquial is not so common. It is usually neither positive nor negative, nor felt to be lower class. However, the euphemism "colloquial at best" is often used to mean that it is bad style, referring to a colloquialism used in the wrong setting.

Slang: Slang can be a noun or an adjective; slangy means "resembling or constituting slang". It is more often negative than positivebut it can still easily be positive.

In the formalmiddleinformal spectrum, it is more informal than colloquial or informal. The word slang itself is a bit informal, while the other words on this page are not.
Oxford English Dictionary: 1. a. The special vocabulary used by any set of persons of a low or disreputable character; language of a low and vulgar type. [notice vulgar used ambiguously]

1. Originally, slang was language associated with low socio-economic class or character, and it is still used with that connotation, though by no means always. 2. A secondary sense has developed, that of general "group talk" in a mildly disapproving or mocking wayeven if this group isn't lower class. This sense is now arguably more common than the first. It is often used ironically, as in lawyer slang. 3. A tertiary, entirely neutral sense, "any kind of non-standard group talk", is now commonly used in academia. Vulgar: This means literally "of the people".The Oxford English Dictionary describes its development through the ages:

I. 3. Commonly or customarily used by the people of a country; ordinary, vernacular. In common use c 15251650; now arch. II. 9. Belonging to the ordinary or common class in the community; not distinguished or marked off from this in any way; plebeian

II. 13. Having a common and offensively mean character; coarsely commonplace; lacking in refinement or good taste; uncultured, ill-bred.

It can now be used to describe language in two ways: 1. The old-fashioned sense is as (II. 9.) above. It is still in use in dictionaries, but less frequent elsewhere. 2. The modern sense is close to (II. 13.), "obscene" or "filthy" to a greater or lesser degree; the lower classes were supposed to be liable to such language, and this sub-sense of (1.) came to dominate the word. So this is obviously even less formal than slang in its lower-class sense. In dictionaries, vulgar could be (1.) or (2.).

I will give a few examples, best description first:


That ain't right.

I will try and convince her.

slang informal vulgar (1. of the common people), old-fashioned label perhaps colloquial slightly informal colloquial some might call this slang or vulgar (1.), but it isn't felt to be connected with lower class by most people, nor with certain specific groups slang vulgar (2. obscene), old-fashioned label, because suck has lost its sexual connotation for many people vulgar (1. of the common people) informal (a bit too general) colloquial is possible, but not the best choice informal colloquial, but many people "would never say was", in neither speech nor writing slang or vulgar (1. of the common people): probably not
edited Jun 15 '11 at 1:04 answered Jun 14 '11 at 0:56

That sucks.

If I was rich, I'd go to London.

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