Terms and phrases

Explain unavoidable jargon or acronyms

Define jargon or spell out acronyms the first time they appear on any page. You cannot assume prior knowledge, memory, or even the context by which a user arrives on the page.


American Medical Association (AMA)

Avoid idioms, metaphors, clichés, and colloquialisms

Idioms and cutesy or abstract turns of phrase can be difficult for English as a second language (ESL) and low literacy readers. They can be difficult or distracting to readers with cognitive impairments. And they can be inappropriate or hurtful to a user in emotional distress or crisis.

Clichés and colloquialisms are culturally oriented and often lack meaning to people outside the intended culture. They also lack the professional tone the University Libraries strive for. Particular phrases must be avoided because of underlying oppressions.

Consider reserving cute for noncritical social media content or non task-based contexts like print materials or newsletters.


“A good rule of thumb is...” (no.)
“A good rule is..” (yes.)
The phrase “rule of thumb” is associated with domestic violence, and adds needless complexity.

“That one is looking long in the tooth.” (no.)
“That one is looking older.” (yes.)
The phrase “long in the tooth” means different things in different languages, and absolutely nothing in others, in addition to adding needless complexity.

Remove exaggerated and informal parts of speech

Clean up messages and content by striking out unnecessary adjectives and replacing the following words below.

Word and phrase replacements
Avoid Example Alternative
A bit The books are a bit difficult to read The books are [difficult/somewhat difficult] to read
A lot of; a couple of A lot of studies [Many/several/a great number of/eight] studies
America A researcher in America A research in [the United States/the U.S.]
Isn’t, can’t, doesn’t, would’ve (any contraction) The library isn’t The library is not
Kind of; sort of The results were kind of significant The results were [somewhat significant/significant to some degree]
Til, till From 2008 till 2012 From 2008 [until/to] 2012
You; your You can clearly see the results The results clearly
Bad A bad result A [poor/negative] result
Big/humongous A big sample A [large/sizable] result
Get This database gets attention This database receives attention
Give This chapter gives an overview This chapter [provides/offers/presents] an overview
Good A good example A [useful/prime] example
Show The figure below shows The figure below [illustrates/demonstrates/reveals]
Always; never Researchers always use Researchers use; Researchers [frequently/commonly/typically] use
Perfect, best, worst, most, always, never (any superlative) The perfect solution to the [An ideal solution/a preferred solution] to the problem
Very, extremely, really, too, so (any intensifier) The database is extremely important The database is [important/critical/crucial]
Beautiful, ugly, wonderful, horrible, good, bad The literature review included many good articles The literature review included many articles
Naturally The participants naturally wanted to The participants wanted to
Obviously; of course The results obviously indicate The results indicate
Has got; have got The dissertation has got four chapters The dissertation has four chapters
Serves to; helps to This chapter serves to explain This chapter explains
Literally The students were literally dying to The students were eager to
Would of; had of The study would of considered The student would have considered
Adapted from “Taboo words in academic writing”, Scribbr