Taboo Words In Academic Writing

The English language is an entire complex world, full of rules to follow. Conversations and informal writing allow for a little bending of the rules, but other aspects of the language call for specific measures. When it comes to writing a dissertation, thesis, research paper, or any academic paper in general, adapting to the use of a formal language is necessary. In almost all cases, there are words and phrases that are considered inappropriate in academic writing. This post seeks to explore those so-called taboos, so that in your practice of academic writing, this guide will prove helpful:

Taboo# 1: Too informal

Academic writing is a realm that requires a more formal approach, as opposed to other non-academic materials written, for instance, for websites. Academic writing uses a more formal tone than how we normally speak. To give you a clear idea, here are words considered too informal to use on your academic paper.

Taboo# 2: Too unsophisticated

Another important detail to avoid is the use of simple terms. Using too much of these can make your writing feel elementary, so it’s important to not overuse them. Should there be a need to use phrasal verbs, opt to use their one-word alternatives instead. Below are some terms that should be avoided in academic writing. Keep in mind that longer and complex words are not necessarily better than shorter words. The secret to good academic writing is being concise and using a varied language.

Taboo #3: Too vague

As you write your academic paper, remember that people will be seeking your work for its knowledge-rich content. How you execute the information is vital, and using vague terms will make your writing imprecise. This may cause people to interpret it in different ways, which is a problem when dealing with facts. It is, therefore, integral to remain as specific as possible.

Taboo #4: Too exaggerated

Academic writing is characterized as usually serious and direct. Some terms such as adverbs of frequency (always and never), superlatives (terms that denote something of the highest degree, for instance the worst), and intensifiers (words that emphasize, such as very) are deemed too theatrical. These terms, at times, may also not be accurate. Using perfect or never to describe something equates to too much of making a significant claim – remember that academic writing requires precision. The words below can be valuable, but it is wiser to use them cautiously. 

Taboo #5: Too subjective

Your use of some words and phrases can sometimes expose bias. For example, if you assert that something will obviously happen, you are signifying that you think the circumstance is obvious and not exactly stating a fact. Expressing your opinion, of course, is expected in certain sections of your thesis or dissertation, along with other forms of academic text like argumentative essays and personal statements. In many cases, however, the usage of words and phrases shown below must be treated with caution. Allow the facts to stand out and speak for themselves. If necessary, try to emphasize your point using a less biased language.

Taboo #6: Weak Thesis Statements 


A thesis statement is the main argument of your written work, and it should be brief and defendable. Do not begin your thesis statement with phrases such as “Since the dawn of time..”, as it is broad and will not help you convey your point. It is also important to remember not to use a statement of common knowledge, so much so that it loses its purpose of refute. For instance, do not write that glaciers are melting rapidly more than ever. It is stronger to write that the glaciers are melting rapidly more than ever due to human activities, as that leaves an open area for discussion – this makes an argument you can defend with data. Lastly, do not use a question as a thesis statement. Remember that it’s a statement, not a question.

Other tips for academic writing

In general, there are a few more words and phrases to avoid in academic writing. Here are some of them:

  • Jargon – These are terms that are unique to your respective field. Such use of words may be difficult for readers from other fields to understand.
  • Clichés – These are expressions which are heavily overused, such in the nick of time or think outside of the box. These phrases can be too much embellishment for your academic paper, thereby making its overall merit suffer. Use of cliché demonstrates lack of originality.
  • Everyday abbreviations – These are terms we use on a daily basis, such as info, phone, fridge, and photos. 
  • Slang – As with jargon, using slang words may cause confusion to some readers, especially those people whose mother language is not English.  

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