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Words to Avoid in an Essay. List with Explanations

words to avoid in an essay

As an IB writer and educator, I’ve realized how crucial it is to choose words wisely in your essays. They not only build your argument but also reflect your understanding and creativity. In this article, I’ll guide you through words and phrases that, from my experience, can weaken your essays and offer suggestions on how to replace them. Remember, in the world of International Baccalaureate, every word counts!

Why Do Words Matter in Your Essays?

Words are the building blocks of communication, especially in academic writing. As someone who has assessed numerous essays over the years, I’ve seen firsthand how the wrong choice of words can muddle an otherwise clear argument, rendering it vague and less convincing. Understanding why and which words to avoid in an essay is crucial in writing compelling and articulate works.

For example, the primary issue with specific phrases is their vagueness. Words like “things,” “stuff,” or “aspects” contribute nothing to the reader’s understanding. They are placeholders where specific, meaningful information should be. In academic writing, and especially in IB essays, precision is paramount. You’re expected to convey complex ideas clearly and concisely; vague language directly undermines this objective. So, these are words you shouldn’t use in an essay.

Now, let’s look at a list of words to never use in an essay because they can weaken your writing:

  • Very/Really. These intensifiers often fail to add the emphasis you might intend. Instead, choose stronger adjectives.
  • Things/Stuff. These are too vague. Be specific about what you’re referring to.
  • In my opinion/I believe/It seems that. These can undermine the strength of your assertions.
  • A lot/Many/Various. Quantify or qualify your statements more precisely.
  • Always/Never. Absolute statements can make your argument seem inflexible.
  • Basically/Essentially. These can oversimplify complex arguments.
  • Just/Only. These words can inadvertently minimize your points.
  • Quite/Rather/Somewhat. These vague modifiers can weaken your assertions.

Instead, strive for specificity, clarity, and strength in your word choice. Opt for precise verbs and nouns, and let the strength of your ideas shine without being hindered by weak or vague language. In IB essays, where arguments are tested for depth and clarity, choosing the right words is not just a stylistic choice — it’s a strategic one.

Words That Weaken Your Statements

So, what words not to use in an essay if you don’t want to weaken your arguments? From my extensive experience reviewing papers, I’ve noticed certain expressions that frequently undermine the strength of any statement. Phrases like “in my opinion” or “I think” are common culprits. While these might seem like a way to express humility or open-mindedness, they can inadvertently suggest that you’re not fully confident in your points. Such phrases can be detrimental in an academic context, especially in subjects like IB, where assertiveness and clarity are valued.

Furthermore, qualifiers like “probably,” “maybe,” “sort of,” and “kind of” can also diminish the impact of your statements. They inject uncertainty into your claims, which can be seen as a lack of conviction or insufficient research. In a well-argued essay, every statement should be backed by evidence and presented with confidence.

Another set of words to be cautious about are absolute terms such as “always,” “never,” “everyone,” and “no one.” While these words might strengthen your argument by emphasizing universality or certainty, they can make your claims more vulnerable to criticism. The world is rarely black and white, and such absolutes can oversimplify complex issues, leaving your argument susceptible to counterexamples.

Similarly, overuse of adverbs like “very,” “really,” and “extremely” can be counterproductive. These intensifiers are often redundant and can make your writing seem overwrought. Strong, precise verbs and nouns are usually more effective in conveying your point forcefully and succinctly.

Also, be wary of using clichés and buzzwords. Phrases like “in today’s world” or “in the current climate” are overused and can make your essay sound generic. Instead, be specific about the contexts and scenarios you are discussing.

Words to Avoid in an Argumentative Essay

In an argumentative essay, your choice of words can significantly influence the strength and credibility of your argument. As someone who has spent years in the field of IB education, I’ve seen how specific phrases, though commonly used, can detract from the persuasiveness of an argument. So, which words should not be used in this essay? “Very” or “a lot” are prime examples. They are subjective and can make your argument seem unsupported by specific evidence.

Now, let’s dig into some specific words and phrases that you should consider avoiding in your argumentative essays:

  • Very/A lot. These intensifiers are vague and can weaken your claims. Opt for specific measurements or more descriptive adjectives.
  • Always/Never. Absolute terms can oversimplify arguments and ignore exceptions, making your argument less credible.
  • Everyone/No one. Similar to always/never, these generalizations can be easily disputed and weaken your argument.
  • Maybe/Probably/Might. These words introduce uncertainty and suggest a lack of confidence in your arguments.
  • I think/I believe/I feel. While personal opinions are valuable, these phrases can make your arguments seem subjective rather than fact-based.
  • Obviously/Clearly. Using these terms can come across as dismissive of other viewpoints and can be off-putting to readers.
  • Just/Only. These minimizers can inadvertently lessen the impact of your statements.

Aim for precision in your language. Provide specific evidence and data to support your claims, use strong and descriptive vocabulary, and avoid generalizations and absolutes. This approach strengthens your argument and displays higher critical thinking and analytical skills – essential elements in IB writing.

Words That Undermine Credibility

Maintaining credibility is crucial in writing, particularly in academic contexts like the International Baccalaureate. As an experienced IB educator, I’ve observed that certain words can inadvertently undermine the credibility of an essay. These phrases often introduce doubt, convey bias, or suggest a lack of in-depth understanding of the topic. Recognizing and avoiding these words can significantly enhance the persuasive power and integrity of your writing.

Here is a list of words to avoid in essays if you don’t want to weaken your credibility:

  • Everyone knows/It is a well-known fact. Such generalizations can be easily disputed and suggest a lack of concrete evidence.
  • Just, Merely/Simply. These minimizers can make your arguments seem trivial or superficial.
  • Literally. Often misused, this word can undermine credibility if the following statement is not strictly true.
  • Many people say/Some argue. Without specifying who these people are, such phrases can weaken your argument as they lack precision and source credibility.

To maintain credibility in your essays, avoiding these words and focusing on presenting well-researched, clearly articulated arguments is essential. Use evidence-based assertions and precise language to convey your points. Remember, in academic writing, how you say something is just as important as what you say. Your word choice should reflect a balanced, informed, and thoughtful approach to the subject matter.

Vague Words Not to Use in Essays

Vague and overused words can significantly diminish the impact and clarity of your essays. Due to overuse and generality, such words fail to provide specific, meaningful information, making your arguments less compelling and your writing less engaging.

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Let’s look at some of the most common vague and overused words to not use in an essay:

  • Good/Bad. These basic adjectives are subjective and provide little insight. Opt for more descriptive words that clearly articulate the nature and implications of your discussion.
  • Interesting/Important. These words are overused and subjective. Instead of telling the reader that something is interesting or important, demonstrate why it is so through specific details and analysis.
  • Actually/Literally/Honestly. These words are often unnecessary and can come across as filler, weakening the strength of your statements.
  • Thing/Aspect/Factor. These general nouns can usually be replaced with more specific terms that provide more precise information to the reader.
  • Nice/Fine. These general adjectives are often too broad and lack descriptive power. Specific adjectives that precisely convey your thoughts can be more effective.
  • Interesting. This word is subjective and overused. Instead, describe what makes the subject matter intriguing or noteworthy.
  • Big/Small. These relative descriptors lack precision. Quantify with measurements or compare to something familiar for better clarity.
  • Get/Got. Often, more precise verbs can be used in place of “get” or “got,” which can enhance the specificity and clarity of your sentence.
  • Maybe/Perhaps. These words introduce uncertainty. If appropriate, assert your point more confidently or provide evidence to support your speculation.
  • Kind of/Sort of. These phrases can weaken your argument by making it seem like you’re unsure of your statements. Opt for more decisive language.

By consciously avoiding these vague and overused words, you can improve the precision, clarity, and persuasiveness of your academic writing, especially in the IB extended essay that requires detailed analysis and clear expression.

Final Thoughts on Word Choice in Essays

I highly recommend to expand your vocabulary. The more words you know, the better equipped you’ll be to express your ideas precisely and persuasively. Remember, in IB essays, every word you choose can make a significant difference.

In conclusion, as an experienced IB writer, I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing your words wisely. Avoiding certain words and phrases can strengthen your argument, improve credibility, and demonstrate a deep understanding of your subject. Remember these tips, and you’ll write essays that meet and exceed IB expectations! Also, if you need help, just contact our Extended Essay Writers service experts.

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