• 3-minute read
  • 14th September 2015

10 Overused Words (And Brilliant Alternatives You Never Knew You Needed)

Keep in mind when writing an essay that the person marking it will probably have to read dozens of similar assignments from your classmates.

One way to make sure your work stands out is to have it checked by a professional. Another is to vary your vocabulary. In this post, we offer alternatives for ten words commonly used in academic writing.

1. Also

The word ‘also’ is great for connecting two related sentences but you might need a few alternatives in a longer essay.

At the start of a sentence, words like ‘furthermore’, ‘moreover’ and ‘in addition’ can serve the same purpose.

2. Answer

This word is both a verb and a noun. When used as a verb (e.g. ‘to answer my research question’) you could also use terms like ‘address’ and ‘resolve’.

When used as a noun (e.g. ‘the answer to this dilemma’), good alternatives include ‘solution’ and ‘explanation’.

3. Bad/Good

Synonyms for the basic term ‘bad’ include ‘poor’, ‘inferior’, ‘negative’ and ‘deficient’.

Alternatives to ‘good’ include ‘satisfying’, ‘valuable’, ‘excellent’, ‘positive’ and ‘high-quality’.

4. Change

Possible replacements for the verb ‘change’ (i.e. the act of changing something) include ‘transform’, ‘modify’ and ‘adjust’.

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The nouns which accompany these words (i.e. the change made) are ‘transformation’, ‘modification’ and ‘adjustment’.

5. Describe

When referring to the work of others you might draw upon their written descriptions. Substitute words for ‘describe’ include ‘portray’, ‘characterise’ and ‘report’.

6. Explain

It’s common to say that you’re going to ‘explain’ something in your essay. Other options here include ‘clarify’, ‘elaborate’ and ‘account for’.

7. Important

If you want to identify some detail or idea as important, alternate possibilities you might use incorporate ‘significant’, ‘vital’, ‘critical’, ‘imperative’ and ‘essential’.

8. Said

This one is particularly important when quoting other sources. Instead of repeatedly saying ‘so and so said that’ to introduce a quotation, try using words like ‘stated’, ‘explained’, ‘argued’ or ‘claimed’.

9. Therefore

The word ‘therefore’ is used to introduce a conclusion based upon a premise or argument (e.g., ‘Because X, therefore Y’). Alternative terms include ‘consequently’, ‘accordingly’ or ‘as a result’.

10. Use

If describing an experiment you’ll need to identify the methods used. As well as ‘use’, terms which can be helpful here include ‘utilise’, ’employ’, ‘apply’ and ‘adopt’.

Of course, the best thing you can do if you’re struggling to find alternatives to common words is check a thesaurus. Just make sure you understand a word before using it, as many terms have more than one meaning!

Comments (4)
Bill B
13th August 2017 at 16:46
As a Yank, I couldn't help noticing the shamelessly overused word "BRILLIANT!" is in your headline, but missing from you list. In my experience, Brits overuse the term as often as we overuse "AWESOME." "I had toast for breakfast." "Toast? Brilliant!" "We're going on Holiday in Spain." "Aw... brilliant." "Did you see the sunset yesterday?" "Yes. It was brilliant."
    18th August 2017 at 11:23
    Hi, Bill. We were focusing on words used in essay writing (and 'brilliant' is a bit informal for that unless you're referring to something that is especially bright or dazzling). But you may well be right about conversation in general! - PI Blog Manager
24th January 2020 at 08:29
This is a fascinating topic. As an Australian, as far as I’m concerned the word that is done to death in my country - by far - is “significant”! When an Australian politician, bureaucrat, official or academic is talking, nothing is ever big, serious, tragic or wonderful anymore. Significant has become the default buzzword, the euphemism, the weasel word, of choice by those trying to sound articulate or impressive. It drives me mad. Is it just Australia? Is this word also a plague in other English-speaking countries? Or am I just obsessive?
4th February 2021 at 18:40
I've noticed that many, many people are obsessed with the verb 'to need'. Whatever happened to 'want' and 'have to'?

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