Words to Avoid in Academic Writing: Basic Rules

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by Will Martins / Updated November 10, 2023

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At colleges and universities, students frequently encounter writing tasks that differ in complexity. Each student grapples with intricate and demanding assignments requiring a mix of profound understanding, thorough analysis, flawless writing abilities, and immense inspiration. The blend of these elements can sometimes lead students to seek words to avoid in formal writing and words to not use in an essay to enhance their content. While some might consider leaning on professionals for assistance, many learners rise to the occasion, pushing themselves to produce a detailed, organized, coherent piece of writing deserving top grades.

At this point, it is indispensable to emphasize that the main idea of writing academic papers is to expand vision, deepen knowledge, and practice skills. But what about paper details? Do beginners need to know any nuances in advance? Here are things to avoid in academic writing that you should be aware of.

Introduction

Writing tasks such as essays, research papers, and book reviews form a daunting cycle for many students, especially those just starting their academic journey. With a packed schedule, the rigors of such demands can be overwhelming. Consequently, many students often fall into a pattern of repeating common mistakes.

Wanna know words to avoid when writing? These errors range from ignoring the words and disregarding proper formatting styles. Such oversights affect the overall quality of the paper and the resultant grades, making the writing endeavors seem fruitless. A comprehensive understanding of academic paper requirements is pivotal.

Therefore, it becomes essential to pose questions like What words not to use in an essay? How can one recognize phrases that uplift the relevance of their content? Answering these queries before embarking on the main writing ensures a more grounded and informed approach. Students set a foundation for producing compelling, high-quality content by mastering the preliminary stages. Let's find out what words to avoid in an essay together!

Avoid These Words in Your Academic Writing

Many novice writers often overlook fundamental writing principles and guidelines. Rather than investing time in understanding words to use in a research paper and identifying words not to use in essays, they dive headfirst into their writing. By not taking the time to distinguish between formal and informal tones or thoroughly analyzing paper specifications, they inadvertently compromise the quality of their content.

This oversight frequently results in a finished product that falls short of excellence, preventing them from achieving the top grades they aspire to. It's essential to prioritize understanding and adhering to these foundational rules to craft a powerful and effective paper.

Do you have little experience writing academic papers? Do you want to sound persuasive and scholarly? Check out a comprehensive list of words to avoid in academic writing that may come in handy. Look through various categories and sections to that you can stick to the basic rules.

Too Informal

Academic writing is not about expressive personal points of view. It is about presenting the relevant data taken from credible sources. Therefore, there are lots of words you shouldn't use in an essay if you want it to sound formal. Avoid informal writing techniques when it comes to college projects. Instead, use the proper format that will make the paper comply with the requirements. Here are weak words to avoid in academic writing that you should remember.

America

  • Bad: A priest from America
  • Good: A priest from the (the United States/US/USA)

A Lot Of

  • Bad: A lot of places to see
  • Good: (Several/Many) places to see

Till

  • Bad: From 1987 till 1999
  • Good: From 1987 (until/to) 1999

Thanks to the examples of bad academic writing, learners can understand that informal words affect the quality of the papers and make them sound unprofessional. Take these aspects into account to that you avoid informal phrases and words and come up with top-quality essays.

Too Primitive

What words to avoid in an essay? Striving to find the answer to this question, students make a completely different mistake that triggers the same impact. Although simple terms and easy explanations can be beneficial, they are not appropriate for scholarly projects of certain levels. While the first-year students can sometimes use them, they will indicate nothing else but a limited vocabulary, lack of writing competence, and inability to express their thoughts. Therefore, it is critical to avoid primitive words and replace them with more sophisticated alternatives. It would help if you didn't forget about words not to use in a research paper. Then you won't have a problem.

Bad

  • Bad: The district was bad.
  • Good: The district was (unpleasant).

Big

  • Bad: A big building
  • Good: A (large/sizable) building

Good

  • Bad: A good book
  • Good: A (useful/informative) book

Remember these primitive words to avoid in academic writing. You should polish your paragraphs like the sword of a medieval soldier. Correcting phrases and sentences are the keys to high grades.

Too Vague

Clear, transparent, and straightforward sentences and ideas are valued when it comes to academic writing. Therefore, make sure you opt for the good words with specific meanings. Do not use tricky phrases that can make the readers doubt your competence. Instead, convert your thoughts into paragraphs without a negative impact on the content quality.

Stuff

  • Bad: People are concerned about their stuff.
  • Good: People are concerned about their (belongings/possessions/personal effects).

Thing

  • Bad: Many things are mentioned in the article.
  • Good: Many (evidence/details) are mentioned in the article.

A long time

  • Bad: This stone has fascinated miners for a long time.
  • Good: This stone has fascinated miners for (over two years).

Any formal essay will be much better if you try to avoid vague language and be as transparent as possible in your wording. Then your professor will be pleased with your efforts.

Too Exaggerated

When delving into academic writing, particularly in disciplines such as physics, mathematics, and social sciences, students must exercise caution against over-exaggeration. These subjects demand accuracy and a straightforward representation of facts. Rather than making inflated claims, the primary objective for writers should be to convey pertinent, current, and credible data without bias. While many words require careful consideration, here are three essential words not to use in an essay. Furthermore, it's valuable to be aware of words not to use in writing, ensuring a polished and trustworthy final product. Familiarizing oneself with such guidelines can significantly elevate the quality of one's academic work.

Always

  • Bad: Politics always argue on
  • Good: Politics (frequently/typically) argue on

Best, Worst, Perfect

  • Bad: This is the best solution to fight plagiarism.
  • Good: This is the (ideal) solution to fight plagiarism.

Very, Too

  • Bad: The glaciers are very important for the survival of humanity.
  • Good: The glaciers are (critical) for the survival of humanity.

Now you know how important it is to avoid forbidden words in writing. One incorrect wording can affect the overall impression of the entire paragraph. Try not to make these mistakes or spend more time reading each sentence.

Too Subjective

What are other words and phrases to avoid in academic writing? Subjective statements often undermine the authority and credibility of an essay, casting it in an unprofessional light. When drafting an essay, even if the nature of the assignment leans towards personal opinion, it's essential to encapsulate diverse viewpoints on the topic. By doing so, you not only present a well-rounded discussion but also bolster the integrity of your work. Precision in language choice is paramount, especially when considering words to never use in an essay. Adhering to these guidelines ensures that your writing resonates with a wider audience and is perceived as informed and balanced. Ultimately, correctness and inclusivity in presenting arguments pave the way for successful essay writing.

Wonderful, Good

  • Bad: The article received many good reviews.
  • Good: The article received many (positive) reviews.

Naturally

  • Bad: The musicians naturally had a good time.
  • Good: The musicians had a good time.

Of Course, Obviously

  • Bad: The results obviously speak for themselves.
  • Good: The results (clearly) speak for themselves.

As you can see, one word can change an entire sentence and even affect a paragraph. So try not to be too subjective and use clear wording. This advice is extremely simple but effective.

Generally Unnecessary

"Brevity is the soul of wit," a sentiment especially true in effective communication. As a skilled surgeon excises unwanted tissue, writers should approach their work precisely, removing extraneous words to maintain clarity. Investing additional time in refining each sentence can drastically elevate the quality of the text. Furthermore, by integrating the right academic writing vocabulary, one can achieve sophistication and precision in their work. The goal is to create content that's both concise and impactful. Examining some examples can further illuminate the importance of these principles and provide insights into their effective application.

Have/Has Got

  • Bad: The book has got nine chapters
  • Good: The book has nine chapters

Helps To/Serves To

  • Bad: This sentence serves to add new meaning to the text.
  • Good: This sentence (adds) new meaning to the text.

Just a couple of changes and every suggestion you make will be improved. Then, all you need is a little patience until you can automatically write correctly. This way, you no longer need to spend time learning the basics.

Generally Incorrect

Enhancing your college essay vocabulary is paramount, and here's another compelling reason to do so. Even native speakers occasionally craft sentences that fall short of proper standards. Consider international students' challenges when encountering such flawed samples on the web. Their journey in mastering academic writing becomes even more intricate. Introducing the right words from academic sources can make a significant difference in the quality and clarity of one's work. By paying attention to these essential terms and guidelines, writers can foster better comprehension for readers of all backgrounds and ensure their content is informative and free from ambiguity. Here's where your focus should begin.

Literally

  • Bad: The sailors are literally dying of hunger.
  • Good: The sailors dying of hunger.

Had Of, Would Of

  • Bad: The experiment would of consisted of
  • Good: The experiment would have consisted of

Now you know more words to avoid in an essay. Spend at least a couple of days improving your vocabulary, and you'll be amazed at how easy you can write sentences. All you need is a little patience.

Other Words to Avoid

Jargon

Sometimes your topic may be about certain technical parameters or research aspects. In this case, you'd better avoid words like deconflicting, especially if you don't provide any explanations. There are many alternative ways to describe a process or situation.

Clichés

Using clichés in academic writing often diminishes the originality and depth of your work. While such phrases might be easily understood, they lack the precision and nuance that scholarly work demands. Relying on overused expressions, like "thinking outside the box," can make your content stale and uninspired. Professors often seek fresh perspectives and a clear demonstration of individual thought processes. Instead of resorting to these trite expressions, challenge yourself to find unique ways to convey your ideas and insights. Elevate your work by avoiding common pitfalls and constantly refining your language choices. To guide you in this endeavor, here's a list of examples you'd be better off avoiding.

  1. I lost track of time.
  2. Time heals all wounds.
  3. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
  4. Let's touch base.

As a rule, all such clichés are inappropriate in most essays. Instead, try to find alternatives or describe certain situations directly. Then you will not have problems with conveying information to your audience (professor).

Slang

Should you include slang like cool or dope in some sentences? Such words do not belong in your assignment! Instead, choose more correct options for expressing emotions if necessary.

Abbreviations

Abbreviations are appropriate if they abbreviate the name of an educational institution, company, or technology. If you use options like TV, fridge, or photo in your assignment, you should forget about high grades.

The Gender-Biased Language

You will be surprised, but there are quite a few gender-biased words that can significantly influence your grades. Here is just a small list of things you should know about. Of course, most professors won't be happy if they see you use it stereotypically.

  • Bad: mankind
  • Good: people, humanity
  • Bad: manpower
  • Good: workforce, employees
  • Bad: fathering
  • Good: begetting, fostering
  • Bad: mothering
  • Good: caring, nurturing

As you can see, the alternatives are equally informative but avoid bias or over-emphasis on gender. Try to stick to the correct wording so that every proposal you make is perfect. Just a couple of weeks, and you should be able to learn most of the correct word variations.

When Taboo Words Can be Used in Academic Writing

Sometimes your professor may allow you to use a less formal tone. As a rule, students do not have hard restrictions regarding reflective reports and personal statements. In this case, you are not limited by any aspects other than common sense. All you need is the ability to express your thoughts. Even if you use "Literally," "Naturally," "A long time," or other words from the list, then your professor is unlikely to mind. However, jargon is still unacceptable, so you shouldn't forget about words to avoid in essays. Be careful, and you can expect high grades.

Summing Up

If you have been attentive in reading all the guidelines and tips, you have a chance to come up with a top-quality academic essay worth the highest grade. Besides, you are aware of words to never use in an essay if you want it to sound scholarly and influential. Although advancing writing skills is a long-lasting process that will require a lot of time and effort, it will be 100% worth the results. Dedication and goal orientation are the exact qualifications that will help you make the right choices and focus on the most critical aspects to keep your papers outstanding and influential.

But what if you are still making mistakes? What if the awareness of the words not to use in essays does not help you create impeccable papers? Are you ready to put up with low grades? Perhaps now is the perfect time to find the best essay writing services and delegate the papers. Then you will have more time to practice.

FAQs

Try to avoid vague thesis statements, clich├ęs, and slang that can make your sentences incorrect. Also, it would help if you forgot about long and confusing sentences.

Forget about first-person pronouns or addressing readers as "you." Also, you shouldn't use abbreviated versions of words, waffling, and slang expressions.

As a general rule, you would be better off checking this with your professor. The point is that in some cases, students may use contractions in essays and some other papers.

Most colleges and universities allow the use of "etc." at the end of a list. However, if you do not use this word too often, your professor will not have any questions.

It would help if you did not use "we" or "us," as these words are nothing more than a way to include the reader in the essay. Try to avoid these words or find alternatives. Then you don't have to put up with low grades.

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