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Weak Words/Phrases to Avoid in Academic Writing

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Academic papers require formal style of writing, which has its own peculiarities and rules you are to follow strictly. That’s why there are some words and phrases not to use whereas our colloquial speech is full of them. Which words exactly? Let’s figure it out!

Phrasal Verbs

We often use phrasal verbs in everyday (i.e. colloquial) speech, but we should avoid using them in our academic papers. Find a more formal synonym to a phrasal verb, for example, put off can be changed to postpone, take back – to return, run into – to meet, take up – to start. Spare a few minutes working with a dictionary and you will easily find a proper word.


Idioms are good to use in fiction, but not in your essay about some significant historical event. Try to avoid using them or, at least, paraphrase them in a formal style, for example, say “he changed his opinion concerning something” instead of “he changed the tune” or “she was extremely happy” instead of “she was on cloud nine”.


These are words like rather, pretty, very, quite etc. that give a word or a phrase some emotional context. It’s so tempting to use them, but we should stay cold and serious while writing academic papers. Such words do not add any extra meaning, so you can do without them. For example, “the results of its implementation were quite satisfactory” should sound more formal: “the results of its implementations were satisfactory”.

Papers on Table

Popular Colloquial Words and Phrases

Beware! The usual words we use in everyday speech are dangerous for academic writing. These are such words as good, nice, thing, stuff, so, a lot, of course and so on. By the way, try not to use run on expression like “so on”, “etc”, “and so forth”, since it shows that you don’t want to bother yourself writing more than you think is necessary.

Contractions and Rhetorical Questions

Contractions save your time and efforts, but your paper is not the case you need to use them. Write “do not”, instead of “don’t” and “they are” instead of “they’re”, even if you are in a hurry. Remember, that there’s no need to use rhetorical questions, such as “What does it mean to be a leader?” (if you are writing about leadership), you can easily avoid them with no harm to your essay or term paper.

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