Words to Avoid

The following is a list of words and expressions that are better left out of academic writing, mostly for reasons of redundancy. Most of these can be substituted for more suitable alternatives with a little attention and creativity.

The rule my students have to follow here is: always search for a better alternative, and use any of the following expressions only when it is absolutely necessary – and sparingly.

This list represents my opinion. Some of the items on it are still found abundantly in books and articles by well-known authors, yet in my opinion there are very few instances where using them is justified. Feel free to leave comments or discuss any of the items below on our facebook page.


actual fact [use actually instead]

after having (+past participle: gone, done, etc.) [use after + present participle instead: after passing the exam, after coming home etc.]

all of [omit of whenever possible]

alongside of [use alongside instead]

a lot to do with


as far as (+ concerned, goes, etc.) [use as for instead]

as good or better than (and any expression of the sort: as X or Y than)

as of yet

as per (your request, etc.)

as to whether [use whether]

as yet [use yet instead]

at the present time [use at presentnownowadays, or today instead]

at the time that/when [use when]

at this time – see at the present time

by means of [use by or through]

by reason of

case – unless in a medical or law context, should almost always be avoided [in case = if; in most cases = usually, ordinarily; in every case = always; in any case, whatever the case = whatever, however, or reconstruct sentence to omit entirely]


determine whether [whether can almost always be omitted]

due to the fact that [use due to]

end up being/doing etc.


factor – usually used in an important factor is or a great factor is. This is a hackneyed expression that needs to be revised out of the sentence by all means possible.

feature – to be avoided as a noun and a verb, as it almost always adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence.

half of [omit of whenever possible]

he/she, s/he, (s)he [use he or she or other gender-neutral expressions]

important – better to omit, as important is not self explanatory. Instead of saying something is important, demonstrate that it is.


in a X manner/way (use adverb [-ly] instead of adjective)

in actual fact – a redundant phrase that can almost always be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

inasmuch as

in case [use if]

in every case [use always]

influential – better to omit, as influential is not self explanatory. Instead of saying something is influential, demonstrate that it is.

in most cases [use usually or often]

in order for [use for]

in order to [use to]

in connection with

interesting – better to omit, as interesting is not self explanatory. Instead of saying something is interesting, demonstrate that it is.

in terms of

in the area of

in the negative/affirmative – omit and arrange the sentence so not will be the negative indicator.

in the process of [use presentlycurrently, or better: convey a sense of continuity using a progressive tense. For example: I am in the process of writing a book becomes I am writing a book, the ing of write implying the continuity one is looking for]

in the sense that

meaningful – like importantinfluential, and interesting, it is better to demonstrate that something is meaningful without saying that it is.



of a X nature

off of [omit of]

on a basis of/on a… basis [replace with an adverb: on a mutual basis should be mutually]

once again [omit again]

one of the most



previous to

question as to

respective (as in their respective schools) [use each other’s or one another’s instead].

significant – better to omit, but in any case significant is not self explanatory. Instead of saying something is significant, demonstrate that it is.


the area of

the fact that

utilize [replace with use]