I heard the following phrase in a podcast:

Credit cards are a bit of recipe for a disaster.

I want to know if this phrase "recipe for a disaster" is formal enough to use it in a formal writing? Or what formal words or phrases do you suggest as a replacement?

  • As this question stands, it's asking if the phrase can be used in formal writing, which is a matter of opinion
    – Gamora
    Nov 1 '19 at 9:53
  • @Bee What do you mean by that? You know, People don't care about my opinion. I mean I would use this phrase in an informal letter or In a conversation with a chain of close friends but I'm curious to know if it is acceptable to use that in a formal essay in university, or it seems odd in that case?
    – a.toraby
    Nov 1 '19 at 10:05
  • No I mean that this site doesn't support opinion based questions, which this currently is. "Is it acceptable to use a phrase in a formal essay at University?" would probably be accepted on the academia SE but again it might get voted to close because it's a matter of opinion and personal preference. Either way, it's out of the scope of this SE
    – Gamora
    Nov 1 '19 at 10:15

I wouldn't call it a "formal" phrase; however it is well-known, and widely used.

It is used in newspapers, and not just downmarket tabloids - this article from credible business journal The Financial Times uses it in a headline.

If you search the expression on Google Books you will also see that it is used, not just in creative writing, but in many "serious" books on business.

Is that formal enough?

Phrases or sayings which could be used to make the same implication include:

  • An accident waiting to happen.
  • A bad combination
  • Heading for trouble / disaster

However, "a recipe for disaster" really brings together the two ideas that a combination of factors may lead to a disastrous result.

  • 2
    Agree. The fact that the phrase is metaphorical does not mean it is inappropriate for use in formal writing. Nov 1 '19 at 10:14
  • 1
    It especially doesn't mean that. Nov 1 '19 at 19:45

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