Oh Slang Can You Say

I adore my etiquette teacher, Maria Everding, a gracious, funny, ball of fire. I attended Maria’s etiquette school – The Etiquette Institute– to learn all that I needed to know to become an etiquette consultant. I often turn to Maria for advice or perspective. She is also not afraid to tell me when she feels I’m wrong. Her latest email was about a question I posted on the Image and Etiquette Consultant’s group I created on LinkedIn where I called a woman a “gal”. This is Maria’s email:

“How about discussing using the word “gal” in the workplace.  That’s your downfall little cutey!  And honesty, I don’t care what anyone says about the use of gal it is unprofessional and slang sounding.  You sure lit my fire, didn’t you.

I’m still sending you bunches of hugs and kisses –


I responded that if I wasn’t scolded every once and a while by my etiquette teacher I would worry she didn’t care. But, she’s right. “gal”, “guys” “yeah”, they are all slang and they don’t sound real pretty now do they?!

So as Maria suggested, let’s talk about using the word “gal” in the workplace. What do you think about it? Do you use it? Are there other words you use instead? Do tell.

Maria, thank you for the blog post fodder, you keep me on my toes!

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Jane on January 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Re using “gal” in the workplace, our :”Unlawful/Sexual Harassment trainer from our HR company might as well be an etiquette trainer for the great orientation and wisdom she gives us every year.  She proofs us up with some basics with which one will never go wrong: it’s not about the intention of your communication, it’s about how the person on the receiving end perceives your communication. What you are striving for is manners that will resonate with others’ realities, and thus result in an amicable response that facilitates getting work done!

    In our office we are educated on the legally protected classes: race, religion, color, gender, national origin or ancestry, pregnancy, childbirth, marital status, sexual orientation, and other classes in some states or locales.  Once you know the legally protected classes, you need to clear up the definition of harassment. This is a bit more extensive than we have space for here but can be researched.

    …So would using “gal” be considered sexual harassment by some?  Would using “gal” be considered rude, demeaning, too informal, slang, etc. to some?  The rule to be completely safe would be that if it would be considered inappropriate to anyone to use “gal” in your workplace, don’t use it.  
    My boss hates the use of “gal”-she comes from the 60’s where feminism demanded the use of “woman” as the only respectful word to use.  She even resents the use of “ladies” which would be considered very polite in most circles.  You have to know the person you are talking to, your audience.  I use “woman” with my boss, ladies with my HR rep who uses it with us, and “gal” with a circle of friends who use it too.  I listen to my staff to see how they refer to a woman and hear them use “gal, girl, woman, chick, lady”, etc.  I use woman as it seems the most universally accepted, neutral and non-offensive, the safest choice!

  2. ArdenClise on January 4, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    @Jane Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with you that it’s best to address people the way they want to be addressed. I applaud you for tailoring your word choice to the person you’re speaking to. That’s very respectful of you. 

    It is interesting how some women are completely fine with the term “gal” and others abhor it. I do appreciate the term “woman” and feel it should be used more often. But for some reason it sounds stilted or too formal. Not sure why.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Lady on October 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    “Gal” sounds like someone born before 1940 would say. After 30, “Girl” no longer applies. I like being called a woman or a lady.

  4. Arden Clise on October 28, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks for chiming in Lady.

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