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Avoid Fillers and Unnecessary Words in Writing
Whether you are writing a research paper , a dissertation , or another kind of academic writing , creating sentences that are strong and concise is important in conveying your message and arguments to your audience. In this article on writing and editing for wordiness (i.e., how to reduce word count), we focus on something you may not know you are doing: using too many filler words.
Why You Should Avoid Filler Words in Writing
Filler words are unnecessary words that many writers use, either intentionally or unintentionally, that do not contribute to clarifying their points or arguments. For example, take a close look at this very sentence because there are some things we did here that you probably weren’t aware were problematic! By reading this article, we hope you realize how toxic fillers are to your writing. So, if you want to draft more powerful sentences, read on!
Removing Fillers & Unnecessary Words
If you look at the last sentence of the preceding paragraph, you’ll find us guilty of our category 3 wordiness offense! That is, we used many filler words that we should have eliminated. (By the way, if you’re wondering what our other categories are, we’ve written about two others so far— nominalizations and preposition errors —and we’ll share a few more with you over the next few weeks!)
What are unnecessary words (filler words)?
Fillers are words that add no substantive meaning to a sentence and merely “fill the space.” Why are we discussing fillers (typically a habit from spoken language) when we’re writing about editing? Simply put, more often than we realize, we write how we speak. Take our blog, for example. We’ve intentionally written this in a conversational tone. (Have you found some of the fillers we’ve used?) While it’s okay for us to do so (since we’re not worried about word count and are aiming to deliver you informative and fun editing advice), if we were writing an academic or research paper, however, we would be more careful to write concisely.
For general and academic writing purposes, avoid fillers and other unnecessary words and phrases.
Let’s look at the following examples:
- There is an octopus sitting on top of my car.
- This is actually an interesting question.
- In order to apply the new method to our entire system, perhaps we should perform a local test.
Can you spot the fillers and other unnecessary words in the above sentences? Grammatically, these sentences are correct, but they would be shorter if we remove some unnecessary words.
- There is an octopus sitting on top of my car. [10 words]
- This is actually an interesting question. [6 words]
- In order to apply the new method to our entire system, perhaps we should perform a local test. [18 words]
Let’s look at the revisions below.
- An octopus is sitting on my car. [7 words]
- This question is interesting. [4 words]
- We should perform a local test before applying the new method to our system . [14 words]
As shown in the examples above, eliminating filler words can significantly reduce your word count! On average, we’ve cut the word count of the sentences above by 25-30%. Look at your most recent writing. Now imagine it 25-30% leaner by eliminating fillers alone. Amazing, right? Wait until you apply our other word-count reduction rules!
How to Identify and Revise Fillers
To help you strengthen your writing and editing skills, we have compiled a list of common fillers and other unnecessary words and phrases, below. While you can revise words and phrases in many ways, we’ve prepared some suggestions that work well in most situations.
Can you think of any other filler words you use regularly? After seeing our examples above, how would you edit your fillers? An even better way to ensure that your academic work is ready for submission to journals for publication is to receive English editing services from a professional editing service like Wordvice.
In the meantime, if you’d like to try a few more exercises, please see the example sentences below and see if you can remove the filler words.
- In the end, we’d like to choose option A.
- We just need to move on to the next task; otherwise, we’ll really run out of time.
- While we believe this project can be completed in three months, in order to do so, we will need to incur additional costs.
- In the event that I don’t make it on time, please start without me.
- With reference to the new project, it is possible that we will start next month.
- It is important to note that you can apply to the program at any time you want; however, due to the fact that we admit participants on a rolling basis, we may have no room left if you wait too long.
- We’d like to choose option A.
- We need to move on to the next task; otherwise, we’ll run out of time.
- While this project can be completed in three months, to do so, we will need to incur additional costs.
- If I don’t make it on time, please start without me.
- We can start the new project next month.
- You can apply to the program at any time; however, if you wait too long, we may not have any room because we admit participants on a rolling basis.
In addition to filler words, writers often have questions about many other writing issues, such as what verb tenses to use in academic writing , how to use the active and passive voice , and various sentence structure rules . You can find answers to these and many other writing and grammar questions by visiting Wordvice’s Academic Resources and Writing & Editing Guide .
Wordvice offers a full suite of English editing services and professional proofreading services . If you produce writing for business, check out our business editing services , which include report editing and document editing , before publishing those important documents or forwarding them to your clients and coworkers.
Additionally, before submitting your writing to your professor or journal for publication, be sure to receive academic editing services by professional editors , including dissertation editing and thesis editing to make sure your document is polished and ready for submission.
Filler Words List: 30 Words and Phrases to Avoid in Your Writing
To make your writing stronger, avoid the 30 words and phrases on this filler words list.
Filler words make English writing weak. Writing needs to be concise and to-the-point, especially for online audiences, and learning how to avoid common filler words is important to that. Choosing the right word for your specific meaning, and leaving out any additional words, will help you create effective writing .
The best way to avoid filler phrases and words is to keep a filler words list on hand. Here is a comprehensive list of words that you can avoid to keep your writing tighter and avoid common writing mistakes .
We tested dozens of grammar checkers, and Grammarly is the best tool on the market today. It'll help you write and edit your work much faster. Grammarly provides a powerful AI writing assistant and plagiarism checker. Anyone who works with the written word should use it.
English Filler Words List
1. actually, basically, seriously, 2. just , 10. slightly, 11. absolutely, 12. at the end of the day, 13. believe me, 14. you know what i mean, 15. i guess or i suppose, 16. for what it’s worth, 18. you know, 19. like i said, 20. or something like that, 21. kind of/sort of, 22. and ect., 24. empty out, 25. for all intents and purposes, 26. in terms of, a final word on filler words list, what are filler words in writing, how to avoid filler words in writing.
Before diving into the list of filler words, you should first understand what makes a word or phrase filler or filler sentences .
According to Grammarly , filler words are short words, often meaningless, that you put in your writing. They can also show up in public speaking. In spoken English, filler sounds, like “um” or “uh,” are also common.
These words bring no benefit to the piece and have no function in the sentence. Though they are common, even among native English speakers, they are not necessary. So without further explanation, here is a list of common filler words in American English. You might also be interested in our list of feeling words .
Many filler words are adverbs. Though they make sense in the sentence, they are not needed. Here are some common ones.
These filler words shows up when you are making a statement that might have an exception. It is usually unnecessary, as in this example:
- Filler: Basically, he was saying he loved her, but in a round-about way.
- Better: He was saying he loved her, but in a round-about way.
Just carries little meaning in the sentence. Often writers use it to sound more polite, but it does not change the sentence. For example:
- Filler: Could you guys just be quiet for a minute, please?
- Better: Could you guys be quiet for a minute, please?
Very is over-used. Writers choose this word to add intensity to their statement, but its overuse makes it filler. Often, choosing a more specific word makes better sense.
- Filler: The new store was very crowded on opening day.
- Better: The new store was bustling on opening day.
Like very, really is an over-used English filler word that rarely helps the sentence. For example:
- Filler: I really want you to come over today.
- Better: I want you to come over today.
Highly when used as an adverb is filler in most instances. Instead, a more vivid verb will convey the same meaning with fewer words.
- Filler: She was highly annoyed at his antics.
- Better: She was irritated at his antics.
This word means completely or absolutely, but it has been over-used so much that it is often thrown into sentences with no meaning at all. For example:
- Filler: I totally didn’t understand what you were saying.
- Better: I didn’t understand what you were saying.
Simply is another word that is not necessary in a sentence. It technically means “in a straightforward or plain manner,” but when used as filler does not carry this meaning. For example:
- Filler: He simply wanted someone to listen to his needs.
- Better: He wanted someone to listen to his needs.
If you find yourself adding the word “most” to other adverbs, you are writing weakly. Keep it concise. For example
- Filler: He most especially liked cream in his coffee.
- Better: He especially liked cream in his coffee.
Somehow is another adverb that has little meaning in the sentence. IF you can say the same thing without it, leave it off. For example:
- Filler: She somehow got her point across in spite of her stutter.
- Better: She got her point across in spite of her stutter.
Saying something is “slightly” so makes the sentence boring. Instead, say what you mean. For example:
- Filler: After days of cloudy weather, the sunshine was slightly blinding.
- Better: After days of cloudy weather, the sunshine felt blinding.
If something is absolutely the case, you should not have to say it. Adding the word “absolutely” simply adds more words, not more meaning. Here is an example:
- Filler: She absolutely wanted to go, but could not make time for it.
- Better: She wanted to go, but could not make time for it.
Another common problem in the English language, especially in English speaking, is filler phrases. These typically have no meaning but are added while the speaker is thinking about their words. Here are some examples.
Saying “at the end of the day” usually means nothing in the statement. It can be left out completely without changing the meaning.
- Filler: At the end of the day, John believed her story.
- Better: John believed her story.
This is another filler phrase that shows up often in spoken English. The speaker is trying to get the listener’s attention and trust. For example:
- Filler: Believe me, I would have been happier without the barking dog moving in next door.
- Better: I would have been happier without the barking dog moving in next door.
This phrase is used in conversation, but in speeches and writing, it is unnecessary. It is a way to get the listener or reader to add their input. For example:
- Filler: I felt the workload was a bit intense, you know what I mean?
- Better: I felt the workload was a bit intense.
Again, this is a conversation discourse marker, but it is not necessary in formal writing or speaking. Here is an example:
- Filler: I was planning to cook dinner tonight, but I guess we can eat at a restaurant.
- Better: I was going to cook dinner tonight, but we can eat at a restaurant.
“For what it’s worth” has no meaning in the sentence. Writers usually use this if they aren’t sure about the feelings of their readers. For example:
- Filler: For what it’s worth, we could start with the upperclassmen for picture day.
- Better: We could start with the upperclassmen for picture day.
This phrase means nothing in the sentence. Hopefully, if you are saying or writing, something, you do mean it. For example:
- Filler: I mean, I’m sure she’s a nice lady, but I don’t enjoy her as a teacher.
- Better: I’m sure she’s a nice lay, but I don’t enjoy her as a teacher.
“You know” or “You know what I mean” falls right up there with I mean. Here is how it is filler in the sentence:
- Filler: You know, we could just skip dinner and head straight for dessert.
- Better: We could just skip dinner and head straight for dessert.
This phrase can be helpful to pull the listener or reader back to something said previously, but it can also be over-done and turn into filler. For example:
- Filler: Like I said, you will be getting some new hires in your department next week.
- Better: You will be getting some new hires in your department next week.
If you end a sentence with this, you are adding filler. It means nothing, but shows you ran out of things to say and makes your writing or speaking weaker. For example:
- Filler: He suggested he was hoping for me to take a leadership position, or something like that.
- Better: He suggested he was hoping for me to take a leadership position.
“Kind of” and “sort of” make it sound like the item you are discussing is not actually certain. Leaving off these words makes the writing stronger . For example:
- Filler: The dinner sort of smelled like tacos.
- Better: The dinner smelled like tacos.
Using “and” with “Ect.” is redundant. You can shorten this by saying “etc.” and leaving off the “and.” For example:
- Filler: The vet saw all kinds of animals, including dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, and etc.
- Better: The vet saw all kinds of animals, including dogs, cats, snakes, hamsters, etc.
The phrase “due to the” is best substituted with a simpler word, like because. Here are some examples:
- The game was canceled due to the rain.
- The game was canceled because it rained.
This phrase is redundant. To “empty” something means to remove its items out of it, so you do not need the “out.” For example:
- Filler: The high school emptied out quickly on the last day of school.
- Better: The high school emptied quickly on the last day of school.
“For all intents and purposes” carries no meaning and makes a statement weak. Eliminate it to make the sentence stronger. For example:
- Filler: For all intents and purposes, I can say that you are my favorite person.
- Better: You are my favorite person.
This is another phrase that is not helpful in the sentence’s meaning. Eliminate it to make the writing stronger. For example:
- Filler: In terms of salary, it was a good job offer.
- Better: The job offer had a good salary.
Other Filler Words
Some filler words do not fall into specific parts of speech. They make no sense in the sentence, but speakers put them in to help the words flow. When these meaningless words make their way into writing, it simply makes the writing wordier.
Here are some examples
This is another pair of filler words that show up in writing because of the way we speak conversationally. They bring no meaning to the sentence, and usually are at the start of the sentence. For example:
- Filler: Ok, so what she was saying is she wanted to go to the concert, but couldn’t afford the ticket.
- Better: She was saying she wanted to go to the concert, but couldn’t afford the ticket.
Well can be an adjective or adverb, but it often shows up as filler in a sentence. For example:
- Filler: Well, he said he wanted to buy a new car, but the sticker price convinced him to choose a used model.
- Better: He said he wanted to buy a new car, but the sticker price convinced him to choose a used model.
Unless you are talking about a time, the word “now” has little meaning in the sentence. For example:
- Filler: Now, the little child’s pretentious attitude seemed cute.
- Better: The little child’s pretentious attitude seemed cute.
The phrase “all of” is redundant. You can simply say “all” and leave off the “of.” FOr example:
- Filler: She ate all of the cake the next day.
- Better: She ate all the cake the next day.
When you write or speak, take the time to analyze every word. Make sure the words you include have meaning and help the sentences be stronger. If they do not, or if you overuse certain words, tighten up the writing.
Filler and fluff make you seem less adept at communication. by evaluating your writing to eliminate these problems, you will become a better writer overall.
If you like this type of list, we also created one about transition words .
FAQs on Filler Words List
Filler words are words that carry little meaning, or no meaning, in writing. They often work their way in based on speech patterns. Writers carry filler words that they would use in conversation into their writing, and it gets weaker.
When writing, carefully evaluate every sentence to ensure the words have meaning. IF there is a shorter or more impactful way to state something, your sentence has filler. Eliminate the filler to make the writing stronger.
Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.
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Filler Words for Essays: How to Avoid Them
Table of Contents
Drop Filler Words for Essays: How to Write Better
Your writing is too long. How do we know? You drop filler words for essays and didn’t cut words from your writing.
When you write, you want to drop filler words for your essays because they’re like little rocks in the river of language. They rob you of fluidity.
You might have seen how people can write 1,001 words and still not say it all — it’s called wordiness.
A wordy writer is not a lazy writer. The problem is that too many writers use filler words to make their writing more readable.
Let’s talk about what filler words are and why you should drop filler words for essays.
Understanding Filler Words and Their Impact
Writers use filler words at the end of a sentence to add emphasis, express emotion, or slow down the sentence.
They often make a sentence sound more formal and polite. For example, it’s a little more formal to say “You should’ve let me know that” than “You should’ve called me.”
Since grammar rules are complicated and subject to many exceptions, the best way to learn them is to practice and play. Try to cut as many filler words as possible.
For example, the sentence “I’m going to the store, please wait for me” can be written as “I’m going to the store, please wait.” Cut out all unnecessary words so as to enjoy fluent writing.
The best way to drop filler words for essays is to use different words and sentences with few repeated words . Use as many adjectives and adjectives as needed in your writing! It’s all up to you.
Remember, writing is supposed to be a creative expression rather than a copy purely meant to convey facts and data.
Steps to Avoid Filler Words in Your Writing
- Write your essay by breaking it down into smaller pieces to get it done. Common filler words that people habitually use even in speech are “well,” “you know,” “so,” “like,” and “for example.”
- Don’t begin sentences with words like “since” or “as.”
- Use paradoxes that are opposing ideas. “The cost of our lives is greater than the cost…
- Don’t go for simple words like “it’s” and.”
- Avoid saying “It was like…” instead, say “It was like that.”
- Notice where you might be unwittingly repeating yourself
- Choose your words carefully because they stick
If there are problems with your writing, perhaps it will irritate or aggravate your reader. The relevance of the word “too long,” no matter where it lies, varies considerably depending on your medium and the reader’s stamina.
There are various ways to make writing meaningful and lean. One sure way is to find sentences to delete without loss of meaning.
This method entails finding flabby sentences or words cutting through the entire manuscript rather than individual words or sections.
Overwriting usually means you focus on yourself instead of the reader, which ultimately means your message will be lost.
Sometimes, a writer could continuously use the same word or phrase, albeit unconsciously. Learn to say what you need to say once. Continuous repetition of words irritates, bores, or puts readers to sleep.
Strategies to Improve Your Essay
- It is best to remove the majority of “that.” Writers should use “that” to indicate a grammatical need or deliberate emphasis.
- Start and end sentences with strong words. Restructure sentences to begin and end with nouns or verbs rather than prepositions or filler words when possible. “Jane was kind of petty” rather than “Besides all that, she was petty, kind of.”
- Put strong words in anchor positions and pay essential attention to the sounds. Emphatic sentences come out good when sharp consonant sounds like d, g, k, p, etc. are in place.
- Word cloud helps. Copy-pasting your entire document with an online tool like Wordle will create a picture of all the words you use.
Flabby words make the reading of the essay seem less cohesive and less focused. They add noise to the text and make it harder to read. Always be on the lookout for flabby words and take steps to minimize their effects.
Are flabby words the same as fillers? Flabby words are words that have no contribution to the sentence. They can be flukes, fillers, or dead words.
Flukes are flabby words that don’t add any information to the sentence. Fillers are flabby words that appear in the sentence without any grammatical role.
Dead words are flabby words that don’t fit into the flow of the sentence. They often appear in the sentences as if they have their role to play, and it is confusing to the reader. In both cases, the primary purpose of a flabby word is not to add information to the sentence.
Grammar expletives are obnoxious words that go entirely against proper word usage. They are words that shouldn’t exist in the English language, but here we are nonetheless.
Explanations used to introduce clauses (not to be confused with cuss words) delay the sentence’s subject. Expletives do not add any tangible meaning to verbs or nouns, which play a specific role in expression.
Grammar expletives may be used at the beginning and end of a sentence to express emotion or emphasis. There are many expletives, but only a few are considered grammatically correct.
It’s never easy to get rid of grammar expletives from a piece of writing. This is because the writer will probably have to rethink the entire essay.
There are some common grammar expletives that you should avoid if you want your paper to come out clean. Words like “then,” “and,” “but,” “never,” “so,” and “yet.” These words don’t just belong on essay topics and papers. They should be banned entirely.
Before you write, take a look at the expletives you want to remove and jot down a note about what they are. Spend some time reading your note and figuring out how you want your final essay to look after the expletive removal.
Identifying and Eliminating Redundant Words
Redundant words are unnecessary additions to your writing. They are a sign of a weak vocabulary and lack of creativity. They are common and non-urgent and should be left out of your essay. Removing redundant words will make your essay less wordy and cleaner.
The most effective essays are clear, concise, and to the point. When you are writing, you must be careful about your words. Words like and, is, are, are, that, or too should be used only when they are necessary.
If your essay can be easily rewritten without using any of these words, you have used too many of them. Your writing is not good if you always have too much information and a lot of it is redundant. If you must include all of this information, then it indicates that you have not written enough on the topic.
A good essay should be short, concise, and to the point. That is the only way to make your essays interesting and understandable to your readers.
Avoiding Colloquial Expressions in Formal Writing
Colloquial expressions are phrases or slang words that many people in popular culture might use. They are typically informal and are distinctive to a specific region or group of people. They also create sound effects, lighten the overall tone, and often express opinions. Colloquial expressions also often carry a cultural stigma that might affect the tone of a speech or essay.
Here are some colloquial expressions that you might use: The cheapest way to get high is: to smoke, drink, or eat.
Colloquial expressions, just like filler words, undermine the effect you want your reader to have. When writing an essay, it is recommended to fine-tune colloquialisms to formal equivalents.
Clichés (such “as time will tell’ and ‘as luck would have it), Idioms (‘a drop in the ocean’ and ‘cut to the chase’), and fillers (‘very,’ ‘so’ and ‘even.’) Are types of colloquial language that are inappropriate for formal writing .
Readers could misinterpret clichés because they are not specific in meaning. Idioms can be understood and taken literally, while fillers detract from the effectiveness of sentences. Avoid them!
Drop filler words for essays. Avoid using words that don’t bring anything to your piece that you can’t already do with a more concise word.
If a word is dull, overly wordy, or simply unnecessary, it should be removed. If you can’t think of any words that could be removed, the essay is probably full of filler and can’t be saved.
Using filler words can cause the essay to sound more haphazard and disordered, making it less engaging.
Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.
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How to Cut Words from Your Writing
Cris Trautner 10/17/18
Your writing is too long. How do I know? If you haven’t spent time cutting words from your writing, it’s too long.
This comes from someone who feels your pain. I’m a wordy writer. I’ve spent years learning from the best wordsmiths how to not be a wordy writer, and I still fall short (long, whatever).
How Many Words Is “Too Long”?
Your writing is too long if it begins to bore or aggravate your reader. That point, wherever it may lie, varies considerably depending on the medium in which you’re writing and the stamina of the reader. I’ve been stymied on the first paragraph and couldn’t make myself read the rest of the writing; I’ve also read The Lord of the Rings trilogy several times over. Your readers’ mileage will vary.
A 55,000-word manuscript, once typeset, will be approximately 220 pages. That’s a decent-sized book. If that manuscript balloons to 100,000 words, it will be approximately 400 pages when typeset. Is 400 pages too long? It depends on the audience and the medium, but assuredly there is room to cut.
Let’s say you are expecting to write a 250-page book. You’re aiming for 60,000 words, but you’re closer to 80,000. Cutting 20,000 words seems impossible. How do you even start?
Here are seven ways to make your writing lean and mean(ingful).
1. Cut 10 Words per Page
This is the best trick of all. Your 80,000-word manuscript is about 320 pages. If you remove only 10 words per page, you can cut 3,200 words from your manuscript. Ten words is about one sentence. You can surely find one sentence that can be eliminated and not lose meaning. Need to cut more? Try 20 words per page or two sentences.
This method works well because you’re cutting consistently across the entire manuscript and not individual sections or individual words, which is more complicated.
2. Eliminate Fluff
Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. —Mark Twain
We often write as we speak, and the fluff from our verbal life sneaks its way into our writing. This fluff takes the punch away from your sentences. When qualifying and filler words occur three and four to a page, they become distracting and annoying to readers.
Most filler words are adverbs and adjectives. Use William Zinsser’s technique and read your sentences aloud. Note the rhythm and sound. Do your adverbs and adjectives overpower your verbs? Then get rid of the adverbs and adjectives. The action is what’s important.
Common filler words include very, seriously, really, some, rather, little, even, just, perhaps, maybe, seem, and that.
That is a special case. Delete it when it’s used as a conjunction introducing a subordinate clause and can be eliminated without changing meaning: “She said that she would be early to the meeting” is the same as “She said she would be early to the meeting.”
Another special case is even though. You can shorten it to though or although, but be careful when you do. While all three introduce a result that is surprising or unexpected, though and although lack the emphasis of contrast that even though carries: “Even though the street was empty and the moon lit her way, Megan still felt nervous as she walked home” doesn’t have the same weight as “Although the street was empty and the moon lit her way, Megan still felt nervous as she walked home.”
Not all fluff needs to go. If a filler word serves a purpose, keep it. The objective is to shorten your word count by eliminating unnecessary words and cutting or revising anything distracting to the reader.
3. Eliminate useless words and phrases
Tighten up your story by removing these words and phrases from your writing (thanks to Zinsser and Strunk ):
There is no doubt that (substitute: No doubt ) The reason is that (substitute: Because ) This is a topic that (substitute: This topic ) In spite of the fact (substitute: Although ) The fact that he had not succeeded (substitute: His failure ) The question as to whether (substitute: Whether ) It is interesting to point out (just point it out) I am tempted to say (just say it) In a sense I might add It is interesting to note (just note it) Sort of Kind of Just a little bit A bit In order to (substitute: to )
4. Don’t Blather
It’s easy to take tangents in our writing. Our brain makes a left turn, and we follow for a while, until we remember where it is we really wanted to go. Is what you wrote necessary? Does it add or just clutter? If you like what you wrote but it isn’t germane to the story, eliminate it from your current project and store it somewhere to use later.
5. Don’t Repeat Yourself
Every writer does this. We write something, and then we write it again using different words and emphases. Sometimes we use the same word or phrase repeatedly without realizing it. Say what you need to say once, then stop. Repeating yourself will either irritate your readers or put them to sleep.
The author of a fantasy series I continued to read (it had an interesting premise) constantly used a phrase I grew to anticipate with dismay: dish up. Every meal—breakfast, lunch, dinner, on the road, in an inn, at someone’s house—was dished up. Please don’t do something like that to your readers.
6. Focus on the Message
It’s easy to write too much when we have little to say. Counterintuitive? Remember when you had to write a 500-word essay and did it by filling it with blather? (See points 2, 3, and 4). When you overwrite, it means you are likely focusing on yourself, not the reader, and your message is being lost.
7. Edit and Edit Again
Copyeditors edit in stages called “passes.” They usually do two passes through a manuscript, concentrating on different aspects of the writing each time. Copy those copyeditors and edit not once, but twice. When you’re finished writing, put your story aside for a few hours or days. Come back to it fresh and edit it, then take another break. Read your story through and edit again. You may be surprised at what you missed the first time.
No manuscript is perfect, and you shouldn’t expect it to be—that way lies madness. But you can always make it better by throwing out the chaff.
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- 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays
To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.
Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.
It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.
This article is suitable for native English speakers and those who are learning English at Oxford Royale Academy and are just taking their first steps into essay writing.
Learn world-class essay writing and research skills on our Oxford Royale Summer School 2024
Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.
1. In order to
Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”
2. In other words
Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”
3. To put it another way
Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”
4. That is to say
Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”
5. To that end
Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”
Adding additional information to support a point
Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.
Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”
Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”
8. What’s more
Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”
Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”
Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”
11. Another key thing to remember
Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”
12. As well as
Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”
13. Not only… but also
Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”
14. Coupled with
Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”
15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…
Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.
16. Not to mention/to say nothing of
Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”
Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast
When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.
Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”
18. On the other hand
Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”
19. Having said that
Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”
20. By contrast/in comparison
Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”
21. Then again
Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”
22. That said
Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”
Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”
Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations
Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.
24. Despite this
Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”
25. With this in mind
Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”
26. Provided that
Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”
27. In view of/in light of
Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”
Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”
Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”
Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”
Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.
31. For instance
Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”
32. To give an illustration
Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”
When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.
Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”
Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”
Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”
You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.
36. In conclusion
Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”
37. Above all
Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”
Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”
Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”
40. All things considered
Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”
How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.
At Oxford Royale, we offer a number of summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , politics , business , medicine and engineering .
One response to “40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays”
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