Weak Words to Avoid in Academic Writing – Quick Guide

Academic writing is different from informal writing. When writing an academic paper, many phrases and words that are otherwise acceptable in informal writing are inappropriate in academic writing terms. Slangs and short forms that juices up the informal writing have no place in academic writing.

Academic writing should be concise, correct, precise, and free of weak words. Avoid using expressions that are exaggerated, vague, too informal, or subjective, unnecessary, and inaccurate words and phrases. In academic writing, the goal is not to entertain the reader but to inform them (Secrets to writing like a pro).

Do not use these words!

Here are some common weak words to avoid in academic writings broken down into different categories.

  1. No contractions

Contractions are the joining together of two words to form a single word. For example, the contraction form of ‘do and not’ is ‘don’t.’  In academic writing, the contraction has no place. Please avoid using contractions, spell every word you want to use in full. Write ‘it is’ instead of ‘it’s,’ ‘she is’ instead of ‘she’s,’ ‘I will’ instead of ‘I’ll,’ ‘cannot’ instead of ‘can’t’ and ‘will not’ instead of ‘won’t.’

  1. Avoid the use of colloquial expressions

These are words that we use in everyday spoken language. They are lovely for such informal conversations, and they should stay in that realm. Academic writing requires exactness, which they do not provide (Taboo words in a research paper).

Examples of colloquial expression include: above board, reached a happy medium, get through it, part and parcel, easier said than done, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in recent years, pay lip service to, got out of hand, a stumbling block and explored every avenue.

Instead of using these colloquial expressions, try using these formal alternatives.

Replace ‘above board’ with ‘legitimate,’ ‘reached a happy medium’ with ‘reached an acceptable compromise,’ ‘get through it’ with ‘survive or penetrate,’ ‘part and parcel’ with ‘intrinsic to,’ ‘easier said than done’ with ‘more difficult in practice,’ ‘beyond a shadow of doubt’ with ‘definitely,’ ‘in recent years’ with ‘recently,’ ‘pay lip service to’ with ‘support through words but not through actions,’ ‘got out of hand’ with ‘was no longer under control,’ ‘a stumbling block’ with ‘point of contention’ and ‘explored every avenue with ‘investigated alternatives.’

  1. Do not use clichés, figures of speech, and idioms.

Figures of speech, idioms, and clichés are conversational words we use in everyday conversations. In academic writing, they are inappropriate.

Some common examples include: when it is all said and done, at the end of the day, as sick as a parrot, as brave as a lion, few and far between, a level playing field, come full circle, in this day and age, the fact of the matter, think outside the box, in the final analysis, a baptism of fire, in any way, shape or form, mass exodus, the path of the least resistance, fit for purpose, stick out like a sore thumb, at this moment in time, avoid someone like the plague, in the current climate, par for the course and many others.

  1. Avoid using run-on expressions

Avoid run-on expressions such as ‘and so on,’ ‘and so forth’ or ‘etc.’ Instead of using these run-on expressions, try completing the sentence. For example:

‘The topics the historian gave us to study include the Greek-City States, the Roman Empire, the Sumerians, the Assyrians, Ancient Egypt, and so on,’ is an example of a sentence that uses the run-on expression. Replace it with ‘The topics the historian gave us to study include the Greek-City States, the Roman Empire, the Sumerians, the Assyrians, Ancient Egypt, the Mali Empire, the people of the Indus River Valley and the Incas.’

Conclusively, avoid using contractions, colloquial expressions, run-on expressions, clichés, figures of speech and idioms, and the use of rhetorical questions.

To avoid weak words

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