Answered By: Writing Center
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2015     Views: 1

While ultimately the words that should be avoided in papers are decided by each professor, in general, words to avoid include the following: very, of course, thing, always, never, so, a lot, good, stuff, nice, really, many, various, and contractions.
Word to Avoid Reason to Avoid Alternatives Example
Thing / Anything Not specific. Specify what 'thing' actually means Many things support my argument. à Many ideas support my argument.
Stuff / Unclear meaning, similar to 'thing.' Belongings, gear, goods, possessions, substance, material I have too much stuff to move out of my dorm. à I have too many belongings to move out of my dorm.
You / Too informal, limits audience. Substitute with specific subject (he, she, I, people . . . ) You should always stay safe while walking at night. à College students should always stay safe while walking at night.
A lot / Lots Does not tell reader exactly how much/often. Substitute with clear amount (50 pounds, 20,000 people, daily) I think about going to grad school a lot. à I think about going to grad school almost every evening.
Very / Creates overstatement. More powerful words (very clean = immaculate);I am very happy to be able to attend tomorrow's conference. à if necessary, use genuinely, veritably, undoubtedly, profoundly, indubitably I am ecstatic to be able to attend tomorrow's conference. OR I am genuinely happy to be able to attend tomorrow's conference.
Of course / Makes reader feel inadequate and that writer is not explaining material well. Delete; if necessary, replace with clearly, definitely, indeed, naturally, surely Of course, the results show a lack of information in one area. à The results show a lack of information in one area. OR The results clearly show a lack of information in one area.
Never, Always / Too definite, unrealistic. Consider how often the action takes places and substitute with a more realistic alternative (mostly, rarely) or specific data (95% of the time) The ancient Egyptian artistic style never changed. à The ancient Egyptian artistic style changed minutely over time. This professor is always late to class. à This professor is late to class 85 percent of the time.
Really / Adds no value to a sentence. Precisely, assuredly, veritably, distinctly, unequivocally My cat really hates being sprayed with water. à My cat truly hates being sprayed with water.
Kind of / Too informal. Type of, in the category of, within the parameters of Blueberry is a kind of muffin. à Blueberry is a type of muffin. OR Blueberry is in the category of muffins.
Contractions (can't, he's,shouldn't,I'm, isn't . . . ) / Too informal, seen as lazy or talking to a lower-level audience. Original words (can't à cannot; he's à he is / he was; shouldn't à should not; I'm à I am; isn't à is not . . . ) The exam wasn't difficult after I studied consistently. à The exam was not difficult after I studied consistently. This table has been adapted from the article 'Words to Avoid in Academic Writing' on Academichelp.net.

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