List of 125 Words and Phrases You Should Never Use in an Essay

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Polishing your academic writing so as to make the best possible impression? Try this list of words you should never use in an essay. If one of these words is there, consider changing it.
about/around Use "approximately" instead.
absolute best "Absolute" is redundant—just use "best."
absolute worst For the same reason as above, just use "worst."
absolutely Eliminate unnecessary adverbs in academic writing.
absurd Don't say something is absurd; show that it is by using logical argumentation.
actual It is unlikely that the meaning of your sentence will be altered by deleting this usually redundant word.
add an additional "Additional" is redundant—remove it.
all throughout "All" is redundant.
almost Specify the level of progress instead of using vague language.
alternative choice Use either of these words but not both together.
amazing Do not use emotive language in academic writing.
and etc. This is grammatically incorrect—just use "etc."
area Specify which area you are talking about.
as a matter of fact This is colloquial language and inappropriate for an essay.
ask the question Just use "question."
assemble together Just use "assemble."
at a later time/date The concept of time is implicit, so just use "later."
basic Try deleting this word; nine times out of ten, it will make your sentence read better.
beautiful Do not use emotive language in academic writing.
belief Rephrase this using the verb "believe."
big, small, short, tall Describe the exact size rather than using these words.
blend together "Together" is redundant—just use "blend."
careful scrutiny "Careful" is redundant—just use "scrutiny."
caused considerable confusion Rephrase this using the verb "confuse."
certainly Skepticism is a key academic value; certainty has no place.
close proximity This is wordy; just use "near."
completely Remove unnecessary adverbs.
connect together "Together" is redundant—just use "connect."
cut down on Use "reduce" instead of employing a figure of speech.
decrease in strength Say "weaken" instead—it's more concise.
depreciate in value The word "depreciate" already implies a value is being discussed, so delete "in value."
different kinds "Different" is usually unnecessary in this phrase.
disagreeable This is an emotional word, which should be avoided in academic writing.
disgusting Use less emotive and more descriptive language.
due to Use "because" instead.
during the course of "The course of" is redundant—just use "during."
dwindle down "Down" is redundant—just use "dwindle."
each and every Use either "each" or "every."
equal to one another "To one another" is redundant—just use "equal."
evolve over time All evolution happens over time, so delete "over time."
exceptional If something is exceptional, demonstrate how so using facts and allow your reader to reach their own conclusion.
fellow classmate/colleague All colleagues and classmates are fellows, so there is no need to use that word.
filled to capacity "To capacity" is redundant—just use "filled."
first and foremost Choose one, don't use both.
first conceived "First" is unnecessary.
first of all "Of all" is redundant—just use "first."
fly through the air "Through the air" is redundant—just use "fly."
for all intents and purposes This phrase is a mouthful and usually redundant.
for the most part Wordy; try "predominantly" instead.
for the purpose of This concept can be expressed in fewer words than this.
foreign imports All imports are foreign, so just say "imports."
former graduate Once a graduate, always a graduate—"former" is inaccurate.
fuse/join/merge/mix together The word "together" is redundant when used with any of these verbs.
future plans All plans are for the future, so just say "plans."
gather together The word "together" is redundant—just use "gather."
general public "General" adds nothing—just use "public."
go on This phrase is too casual in most contexts; use "continue" instead.
gorgeous Overly emotive for academic writing.
here’s the thing This phrase is too colloquial for use in academic writing.
hollow tube Tubes are hollow by definition.
I might add If you want to add something, just add it—no need to say you're doing so.
in my opinion The whole essay is your opinion—focus on supporting your argument coherently.
in order to "In order" is redundant—just use "to."
in spite of the fact Too wordy—just say "although."
in the event of/that This phrase is wordy; you can express the same concept with a two-letter word—"it."
incontrovertibly Nothing is incontrovertible in academia. If you want to assert something, back it up.
integrate with each other "With each other" is redundant—just use "integrate."
introduce the new Just say "introduce."
irrefutable Nothing is irrefutable in academic writing. This word will only make your reader question why you haven't backed up your assertion.
it seems like Use "probably" instead.
joint collaboration All collaborations are joint, so delete "joint."
kind of This phrase is too casual for an essay.
knowledgeable expert All experts are knowledgeable, so just use "expert."
look no further Telling an academic to "look no further" tends to have the opposite effect.
made out of Just use "made of."
major breakthrough All breakthroughs are major, so delete "major."
may/might possibly "Possibly" is redundant—just use "may" or "might."
meaningful Meaningful in what sense? Use more specific language.
miraculous Overly emotive for academic writing.
more or less This phrase is imprecise; be more specific.
mutual cooperation "Mutual" is redundant—just use "cooperation."
needless to say, it goes without saying If it's truly needless to say something, don't say it at all.
never before "Before" is redundant—just use "never."
new innovation/invention All innovations and inventions are new, so delete "new."
now pending "Now" is redundant—just use "pending."
on a regular basis Wordy; try "frequently" or "regularly" instead.
originally created "Originally" adds nothing here—just use "created."
past experience "Past" is redundant—just use "experience."
period of time All periods are "of time," so just use "period."
pick out Somewhat colloquial; try "highlight" instead.
point out Somewhat colloquial; try "emphasize" instead.
polar opposites "Polar" adds nothing to the meaning of this phrase, so just use "opposites."
present an analysis/recommendation/conclusion Instead of saying you will "present" an analysis/recommendation/conclusion, turn the nouns into verbs: "analyze/recommend/conclude."
present time "Time" is redundant—just use "present."
prove Instead of saying something is proven, focus on proving it.
reason why "Why" is redundant—just use "reason."
refer/reply/revert back "Back" is not needed in these examples—delete it.
repulsive Overly emotive for academic writing.
ridiculous Overly emotive for academic writing.
sensational Exaggerated language like this feels out of place in an essay and usually has the opposite effect to that intended.
settles the debate The objective of an essay is to contribute to a debate, not to settle it. This phrase comes across as arrogant and ignorant.
sickening Overly emotive for academic writing.
and so on, and so forth Adding "and so on" at the end of a list of examples looks either lazy or like you are trying to pad your essay.
something Specify what "something" is.
sort of Replace this with a more specific and formal qualifier.
stuff Colloquial and vague; specify the stuff you are talking about.
stupid Insulting people or ideas is rude and inappropriate; if you want to advance an alternative idea, do so using logic.
superb "Boosters" like this feel out of place in an essay and overusing it will hurt your grades.
take a look at Instead, use "examine."
talk about Use "examine" or "discuss" instead.
the first step is to Wordy; replace with a simple verb such as "start."
make it to Use "reach" instead.
good, bad These words risk being subjective.
thoroughly convincing There is no need to use "thoroughly" here.
time and time again This colloquial phrase can be deleted from most sentences without changing their meaning.
try to figure out This is too colloquial for an essay—try a verb like "determine" instead.
unbelievable This exaggerated, emotional language is not appreciated in an academic context.
undeniable Saying this makes you look dogmatic.
very, quite, really, totally, actually These overused modifiers look like padding—examiners hate them.
when it comes to If you restructure the sentence, you can probably just use "when."
which is Try deleting "which is" from the phrase "the emu, which is endemic to Australia," and you'll find that your sentence is equally coherent.
who is Instead of saying "Karen Lee, who is an astronomer," just say "Karen Lee, an astronomer."
with absolute certainty Saying "with absolute certainty" does not increase the certainty of anything, so work on your argument instead.
within that time frame "Frame" is redundant—delete it.
without a doubt Don't assert that something is certain; it is important to be open to new possibilities.