Words Not to Use in an Essay

Word count is the most important goal in writing an essay. If I can achieve the necessary word count, my writing work will be done. If my draft paper lacks volume, I can always add some general words to meet the requirement on text size.

These and other similar writing fallacies are common among students. Unfortunately, not many recognize these stereotypes as wrong and harmful, and only a few of those who do recognize them actually care to make an effort to change their writing habits.

Let’s take a closer look at what words not to use in an essay and why, as well as the types of words to not use in one’s writing.

Words Don’t Always Add Value

We tend to think that every word we say or write counts. Even worse – once we put something on paper, we may become too emotionally attached to it, as this is ‘mine’, this is ‘what I truly mean and believe’. In most cases, other people, especially our teachers, instructors, and professors, will easily spot the so-called garbage words in our essays and grade our papers lower than they otherwise would.

Usually, people don’t even acknowledge that some words they use in writing are not adding any value or are even harmful. As a rule, those who use lots of unnecessary words in speech also tend to use the same words in writing.

Such words are referred to as garbage words, clichés, words-parasites, or junk words. You may as well have heard the expression ‘to add water to one’s text’. It means to use junk words, which don’t bring any meaning or value – they are used to dilute one’s meaningful arguments and ideas. If you are able to recognize such unnecessary context, you will know exactly what words not to use in an essay. 

Types of Words to Not Use in an Essay

It is easier to avoid something if we know it from the inside out. The same is with the subject matter of our article – we can classify what words not to use in an essay by type. The following list is not going to be strictly scientific and exhaustive, though it is a very starting point for anyone who wants to get better at writing essays.

  • Contractions. Common contractions, such as ‘won’t’, ‘don’t’, ‘mustn’t’, ‘cannot, and the like may be useful in shortening one’s informal text; however, in academic writing (an essay surely belongs to that) they are not acceptable. They make one’s essay informal, and this is what should be avoided in essay writing.
  • Introductory words and phrases. The start of writing is the most difficult part for most people in all major academic and college papers, and an essay is no exception. Because we tend to struggle to begin writing, we often use odd and empty words and phrases at the start of our sentences and paragraphs. For example, ‘as a matter of fact’, ‘it is believed that’, ‘once upon a time’, ‘without further ado’, etc.
  • Adverbs. While using some amount of adverbs is certainly good for one’s essay, an excessive amount of adverbs may do harm. Students often use in their speech and writing, such adverbs as ‘awesome’, ‘extremely’, ‘highly’, ‘basically’, ‘absolutely’, ‘highly’, and the like. For example, ‘an extremely good weekend’ should be changed to just ‘good weekend’.
  • Clichés. Some words and expressions bring no additional value, but take a lot of space. If you use too many of them in your essay, you might get a lower grade than you deserve. Some common clichés include: ‘bring to the table’, ‘business as usual’, ‘read between the lines’, ‘raining cats and dogs’, ‘a piece of case’, ‘low-hanging fruit’. These and other types of words to not use in an essay should be avoided at all costs.
  • Repetitions. In learning to identify what words not to use in an essay, it is easy to omit such types as repetitions. This is a truly interdisciplinary category, which may include clichés, adverbs, contractions, words-parasites, phrases, and even whole sentences. Modern text processing tools allow searching for and filtering repetitions. 

Popular Words and Expressions-Parasites and What They Mean

‘By the way’

One of the favorite words of shy people and introverts. Since both of these types have difficulty communicating with strangers, ‘by the way’ is a way to verbally get attention. Why would anyone want to use this expression in an essay, provided that they already have their readers’ attention?

‘In short’

This expression is loved by choleric people, explosive, impulsive people, and people who like to talk. It perfectly captures the essence of the character of those who are in a hurry, experience permanent nervousness, or know that they can talk about the same thing for hours without getting close to the point. This is an absolutely useless (and too informal) expression to be used in essay writing.

‘Kind of’

This parasitic expression is most often used by creative personalities, not devoid of imagination. Such individuals, as a rule, live not only in the real world but also in the world of their fantasies and illusions, where everything is invented by them. It is a junk word in essay writing.

‘So to say’

This expression is chosen by those who love to write but are not gifted orators by nature. ‘So to say’ is a link between individual phrases or words in sentences, which allows a person to fill in the pause between running thoughts.

‘In fact’

This is how people who like to crush the audience with authority like to begin writing. It is difficult to argue with such individuals, because it is them who know what was, is, or will be in reality. Among many types of words to not use in an essay, this one is a priority.


It can be attributed to the most frequently used words-parasites. It is very actively used in essays. This word indicates that the person using it does not have an opinion (or has only doubts), often listens to others, and depends on what they say. In knowing what words not to use in an essay, this one is highly topical.

‘Sort of’

This expression characterizes persons who are conservatively minded. Such people, as a rule, negatively perceive the opinions of others, if they do not coincide with their position, they also like to argue and prove their rightfulness.


This word is used by those who are confident in their superiority – ending a paragraph or a thought with this word, an author makes it clear that he is confident in his position.

The Key Takeaways

In this article, we have briefly summarized what words not to use in an essay and why. We have also highlighted the main types of words to not use in writing by explaining their meaning and low value.

Professors have an eye for junk words and expressions in students’ writing, and sometimes an otherwise thoughtful and elegant piece of writing will get rated lower because of a single word parasite.

Understanding which parasitic words you use in your vocabulary is quite simple: you can listen to yourself, or better analyze your writing, as in writing, be it a simple social media message, or a college essay, all parasitic words become clearly visible. Aim to limit your usage of such words and phrases, and the quality of your essays will improve dramatically.