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When using nontechnical vocabulary, here are some guidelines and examples.

1. Use shorter and more familiar words rather than longer or less familiar words that may sound impressive but which may be more difficult to understand.

  • advantageous … better
  • indeterminate … unknown
  • constituent … part

2. When there is a simpler alternative, replace a phrase by a word.

  • serves the function of being … is
  • in view of the fact that … while, because
  • it is possible that … perhaps

3. Remove redundant words.

  • careful consideration
  • definitely proved
  • entirely eliminate

4. Remove words that simply duplicate the meaning of an adjacent word.

  • each individual
  • various different or various different
  • period of time

5. Use imprecise words with care, such as ‘several’, ‘some’, ‘many’. How may objects/people do these refer to? What exactly do ‘affect’, ‘change’ and ‘compromise’ mean? They may be necessary sometimes, but be thoughtful before using them


Use strong adjectives when justified: ‘urgent’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘essential’. But consider leaving out dubious adjectives: ‘particular’, ‘apparent’, ‘notable’.


Use adverbs when they add to the meaning of a sentence.

Up to 85% of students mistakenly believe that they are impostors and are not intelligent enough to be presenting their research at a conference. (‘mistakenly’ is essential to the meaning of the sentence)

However, an adverb can reduce the impact of the verb or adjective it modifies.

Recognising this condition is really important because affected students can be reassured that their perception is false. (‘really’ reduces the impact of the adjective ‘important’ and does not add meaning)