French Phrases to Spice Up Your Writing

It’s one thing to ensure your writing has perfect grammar and spelling. It’s another skill altogether to ensure that your writing is compelling, captivating, and informative. That’s a much tougher task, because you need to capture your readers’ attention and retain that attention throughout what you want to say.

In the past, I’ve discussed such writing tools as including a portmanteau or experimenting with synecdoche and metonymy. Today, we approach a different tactic: integrating words and phrases from a foreign language. By doing so, you have the opportunity to add an air of worldly sophistication to your piece that may not be as easy to achieve otherwise.

As with so many other strategies to improve your writing, this one must also be used with extreme discretion. You also need to consider your audience, because using this tactic with the wrong group may make you appear pompous, arrogant, or elitist. Used with the right audience, however, it can add that certain je ne sais quoi we all desire.

I’m using French as an example here, because the French language is generally perceived as romantic and beautiful, but a similar tactic can be successfully employed with a different language too. In an case, here a few examples of French phrases that you may consider including in some of your future work.

  • avant garde: cutting edge, new and unusual ideas
  • bourgeoisie: middle class, often with perceived materialistic values
  • chanteuse: a female singer
  • creme de la creme: cream of the crop, best of the best
  • faux pas: false step, a tactless action in a social setting
  • joie de vivre: the joy of life
  • laissez-faire: a philosophy of “let do” or non-interference
  • mon Dieu!: my God!
  • nouveau riche: newly rich (class of people)
  • prix fixe: a fixed priced (set) menu
  • raison d’etre: reason for being, purpose in life
  • tete-a-tete: head to head, an intimate/private conversation
  • tout de suite: right away
  • vis-a-vis: face to face with, in comparison with or in relation to

And if you’re wondering about je ne sais quoi, it translates directly as “I don’t know what” and refers to the “certain something” that makes something desirable. It’s intangible and oftentimes indescribable.