It’s very common for students to use long words they don’t understand very well in their essays and theses because they have a certain idea of what academic writing should be.
Many students believe that academic writing is wordy and convoluted, and uses a lot of jargon. This leads many students to fall into a trap of imagining that the longer the word, the more impressive and intelligent their writing will seem.
We often see long sentences and multisyllabic words where shorter sentences and simpler words would do. Some students even use Microsoft Word’s thesaurus function to replace a common word with a more complicated word. This is a risky move, because unless you’re very careful, the new word may not carry quite the same meaning as the original, even if it’s similar.
The result can range from funny to confusing, which defeats the purpose of academic writing: to be as clear and concise as possible, using just the right words to convey your argument. Using uncommon words, instead of making your paper seem smarter, generally detracts from your ideas.
To avoid this, using linking or transition words that signpost your arguments can help to clarify your views and show the reader what to expect from certain paragraphs or sentences. These words give structure to the whole, helping you to organise your ideas and assist the reader in understanding them.
Below is a handy list of words that are both useful and appropriate to academic language.
Hence (never ‘hence why’)
Since (try to avoid ‘as’ when showing cause and effect)
Comparing and contrasting
Showing limitation or contradiction
Emphasis, addition or examples
Further (not ‘furthermore’)
First, second and third (not firstly, secondly and thirdly)
So choose some from this list and if you need more help, look no further than a Verbling tutor with experience in writing academic essays.