A colloquialsm is an informal word or phrase which is used instead of a more appropriate or formal one. Some examples are below:
Informal: Pros and cons
Formal: Advantages and disadvantages
Informal: You’re skating on thin ice (something I admit to saying to my daughters!)
Formal: You’re taking a risk
There is a great website called ‘About.com: English as a Second Language’: http://esl.about.com/library/quiz/bl_pairphrases1.htm. On this site there is a quiz where you can select the correct colloquialism to complete the sentence. I was surprised when I got 90% – I obviously use colloquialisms more than I thought, as I knew most of them!
My thoughts: I might consider revising some colloquialisms in my writing after today – for formal writing anyway; however, I believe that even if you use colloquialisms regularly and want to continue doing this, there is nothing wrong with researching their formal meaning in order to express the word or phrase in a different way. It’s a good way to improve your vocabularly and knowledge (and also to be able to explain the meaning to others).
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About.com link: http://esl.about.com/library/quiz/bl_pairphrases1.htm