Informality in American Society

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L. Robert Kohls states "Americans are one of the most informal and casual people in the world, even when compared to their close relatives, the Western Europeans," and I strongly agree with this. Informality is an American value that shown in Kohls article “The American Values We Live By”, and being as informal as Americans are today, this has led us to not live up to our expectations. Language is changing continually in American society and it is very evident that this is occurring in both speech and writing. People from societies where general behavior is more formal than in American society, are struck by the informality of American speech and dress.

Formal and informal language affects us every day. Although there are very subtle differences between the two forms of language, it seems the need to use a more formal style of vocabulary is non-existent. As a society, the type of language that is used, whether it is formal or informal, is directly dependent on the culture and customs that are the most prevalent. In the age of television and the Internet, the need to communicate to the audience at its level has degraded the level of formality needed in order to speak effectively. Although the amount of informal language that is used has increased and greatly impacted society’s standard language, it has left the professional world virtually unaffected. The art of speaking formally is fading fast. However, it is important to remember that even though it is society’s goal to communicate to the masses as easily as possible, there is still a need to hold onto some formality within society’s language skills.

In the past, a formal setting in the United States education system resembled that of England. Nowadays, the American education system has become more informal and this can be seen in a few different ways. One of the informal parts in the education system is when students call their teachers by some other name than a proper formal one. As an example, in almost every American high school there is at least one teacher that is known by a nickname. “Even though this is acceptable to some teachers and their students, it leaves a residue that can imply that the nicknamed teacher is one of the students and does not require the same amount of respect that other teachers may require or should receive”(Kachka). Therefore, students perceive from an early age that respect is not important in school and also that school is an informal place compared to going to church. If students are learning informality at school for eight hours each day, and at night their parents consistently reinforce it in their attitudes, it is not hard to see why a more informal attitude towards adults has become acceptable.

In addition, the film and television industry also contributes to the lack of respect in American Society. Television and the movie industry have directly affected the shift into the use of informal language. Both have goals to communicate to massive numbers of people while attempting to speak in a way that the average person can understand without a large vocabulary or a great amount of education. Due to these goals, not only does society hear informal language constantly, but it also reads it in print everyday. For example, The Citizen, New York Times, and Post Standard are just three major newspapers in the United States that contain articles on a daily basis that have to be read and comprehended by people of all ages and intelligence levels. Overall, the usage of informal language can be seen all throughout American society.


All in all, this could be solved if Americans stepped up to the plate. The increasing use of informal language may not be changed or slowed in the future, however, more emphasis should be placed on this specific area within society to use a more formal language. Everyone is responsible in relaying this message and enforcing it so that as a society we can give respect that is given when using formal language is not lost. Respect to your peers is very important in every culture and formal language use is one effective way for it to be given. Therefore, while society is pushed into more generalized sense of being, it needs to realize that in order to function it must better the lines and rules of formal and informal language. Americans should start living up to their values of being more formal and get on a new path that will guide the future in the right direction.





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