Words And Phrases You Must Not Use In Your Essays

The words or phrases discussed in this lesson routinely cause problems. Some of them have to be avoided at any cost. Others need to be modified.

1. And also

Use and or also. Using them both is often redundant.

2. And / or

This construction is quite common in legal texts. But it is neither necessary nor logical in other situations. Use one of these words, but don’t use them both.

3. As to whether

The single word whether will suffice in most cases.

4. Basically, essentially or totally

These words are possible, but they hardly add anything useful to a sentence. Try writing a sentence without these superfluous discourse markers and in most cases you will notice that the sentence has improved.

5. Being that / being as / being

These words must not be used as a substitute for because.

  • Because I was the youngest child, my parents pampered me silly.
  • (NOT Being the youngest child, my parents pampered my silly.)
  • (NOT Being that I was the youngest child, my parents …)
6. By means of

In most cases, a simple by will do.

  • Someday we may travel to the stars by (means of) nuclear powered rockets.
7. Concerning the matter of

Use about instead. A phrase as wordy as this must be eliminated when something as simple as a single word will do the job.

  • The principal wants to see you about the broken window. (Much better than ‘The principal wants to see you concerning the matter of the broken window.’)
8. Considered to be

That to be can be dropped before an adjective or a noun.

  • considered him an excellent choice. (Better than I considered him to be an excellent choice.)
9. Due to the fact that

Be careful with this phrase: It will unnecessarily land your sentence in trouble. Due to means ‘because of’.

  • The match was cancelled because of bad weather.
  • OR The match was cancelled due to bad weather.

But avoid constructions like: The match was cancelled due to the fact that the weather was bad.

10. Each and every

Use one or the other. Don’t use them both.

  • The nation expects each citizen to do his or her duty.
  • OR The nation expects every citizen to do his or her duty.
  • (BUT NOT The nation expects each and every citizen to do his or her duty.)
11. Etc.

This overworked Latin abbreviation must be banned from all composition. It simply shows that you are too lazy to add another example.

12. He/she

This construction is used to avoid gender bias in writing but it can offend a reader if it appears too often. Use ‘he or she’ or the plural form they (where appropriate).

13. Got

Got is an overworked word. If you can avoid it in writing, do so. Write ‘He earned $200 last week’ instead of ‘He got $200 last week’.

14. In this day and age

Use today instead.

  • Today we all use computers. (NOT In this day and age we all use computers.)
15. Irregardless

Regardless is possible, but irregardless isn’t. That word doesn’t even exist.

16. Is one who

This phrase can and should be eliminated.

  • She likes dancing to that kind of music. (Better than ‘She is one who likes dancing to that kind of music.’)
17. Kind of or sort of

They are alright in informal situations, but you must avoid them in formal academic prose. Instead, use words like somewhat, rather or slightly.

  • I am kind of pleased with your performance. (Informal)
  • I am somewhat pleased with your performance. (Formal)
18. Only

Place it immediately before the word it modifies.

19. Owing to the fact that

Avoid this wordy phrase. Use because instead.

  • I was late because the train broke down. (Better than ‘I was late owing to the fact the train broke down.’)
20. Per

This word is frequently used in legal texts, but it is not appropriate in other situations. Use according to instead.

  • We did it according to your instructions. (NOT We did it per your instructions.)
21. Plus

Plus is not a conjunction. Use and instead.

22. Regardless of the fact that

Use although instead. Why should anyone want to write five words when a single word will suffice?

23. Thru

This is the nonstandard spelling of through. It must be avoided in academic prose.

24. ‘Til

Don’t use this word instead of until or till.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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