Talks are often supported by presentations via a projector (with a presentation program such as Powerpoint). During the talk, there is often a sentence like "next slide/foil/screen please" or "on this slide/foil you see [...]".

In the past there were two techniques:

In my experience, most presenters use slide in their talks, but some use foil. LaTeX-based presentation tools use also slide and foil.

I have the impression that British speakers prefer foil, and American ones prefer slides.

Is there any rule or is it an individual preference? Or should I use screen like Next screen please?

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    A simple 'next' is entirely adequate. Learning the tech's name and saying 'Might I have the next one, Joe?' (or jane or whatever) will lend you an I-say-to-one-go-and-he-goeth air of casual professionalism. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 15 '13 at 16:24
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    You're right about the U.S. preference. I almost always hear slides here. – J.R. Feb 15 '13 at 18:25
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    I have never heard "foil" in this context, and I used to work for a company that made those little infrared remote pointer/controller doohickeys. (US English, though, so maybe them folks across the pond are even stranger than I thought.) – Martha Feb 15 '13 at 18:57
  • @Martha Foil used to be the dominant form here in the States. Probably before your time, though. – tchrist Feb 15 '13 at 22:04
  • @tchrist: I don't think I'm that young: college was almost two decades ago. – Martha Feb 15 '13 at 23:39

In British English, I've never heard the term foils, although I have heard the term

Overheads (meaning transparent sheets for showing on an overhead projector)


Acetates (named after the clear plastic used in the overhead sheets).

British English speakers so far as I'm aware don't use the word foils in this context.

So whilst it might be worth being aware that some speakers might use the word foils meaning slides, as a learner you'd be well advised to prefer the more standard term slides.

In this context, slides can always be used in place of foils without loss of meaning, and will be clearer to a wider section of your audience.

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    I'd always heard overhead sheets called "transparencies". – WendiKidd Feb 16 '13 at 0:54
  • I used acetates a-plenty for overhead projectors in the pre-Powerpoint era (and even in the early Powerpoint years as a backup). I always referred to them as slides. (BrE). At school, back in the 1970s, some teachers used rolls of clear film mounted on an OHP, and would just crank the handle to scroll to fresh space as they filled up the page. I think they may have been referred to as foils - I'm not quite sure. – toandfro Apr 23 '14 at 5:05

Foils was a very common term for overhead transparencies some 25 years ago in the States, at least in the academic computing world.

Can’t say I’ve heard it for a while, though that doesn’t mean it’s never used any more. If push came to shove, I’d say it might have something of an old-fashioned smell to it, not quite so old-fashioned as the smell of freshly mimeographed copies with their weird purple copies, but something of that order.

  • Purple was the result of the hectograph or ditto process. Mimeograph copies in my experience were almost exclusively black. (Cleaning all the ink out of a mimeograph machine was really difficult, so changing the ink color would have been a long and nasty job.) All these methods were pretty smelly and dirty. – barbara beeton Feb 15 '13 at 21:58
  • @barbarabeeton Yes, you’re right — it was the purple one I was remembering. – tchrist Feb 15 '13 at 22:03
  • See, I remember those purple dittoed copies (they stank to high heaven, too, at least when "fresh"), but before reading this question, I had never ever encountered the word "foils" in any context even remotely similar to this one. – Martha Feb 15 '13 at 23:43

"Slide" is the current standard term in the USA. For reference, go to Help in PowerPoint and search for "slide" and then for "foil". There are lots of hits for the former, and no hits for the latter.

However, in many companies, the term "foil" is still used, even though the actual slide is 100% digital and never printed on any form of film. Intel (where I work) is an example. It seems as though the term "foil" is at least as common as "slide" at Intel. I believe the term "foil" dates from at least 40 years ago, when overhead projectors were first introduced, and the transparencies used were a very thin sheet of film (cellulose acetate) held in a cardboard frame to keep them manageable.

  • The PowerPoint Menu option is Insert Slide. – djna Aug 12 '16 at 16:36

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