How Word Variation Could Improve Your Academic Writing (And 5 Handy Examples)
  • 3-minute read
  • 25th December 2015

How Word Variation Could Improve Your Academic Writing (And 5 Handy Examples)

While it’s important to use consistent terminology in academic writing, this applies primarily to technical terms and concepts central to your argument. When it comes to the rest of your paper, varying the language can make it much more engaging and easier to read.

What words should you vary? This depends very much on the individual, but the essence is to avoid frequent repetition of certain basic terms. This doesn’t mean short words like “the”, “a” or “and”, which everyone will use regularly in their writing, but it might include words like “interesting”, “because”, “including”, “said” and “important”.

Alternatives for these terms are presented below, but you might also want to try a thesaurus for other ideas. Just remember to check the meaning of words you find in a thesaurus before using them, as sometimes there can be subtle differences.

1.    Variations on ‘Interesting’

The word “interesting” is often used to introduce a point as worthy of attention (e.g., “It is interesting to note that…”). Ironically, overusing “interesting” is very uninteresting indeed, so you might want to try these instead:

  • Noteworthy/notable (e.g., “One noteworthy claim…”)
  • Compelling (e.g., “One theory seems particularly compelling…”)
  • Fascinating (e.g., “The Ancient Greeks were a fascinating people”)

2.     Because

The word “because” is used when explaining the reasons behind something (e.g., “The results were this way because…”). As such, it’s often used in academic writing, so you may sometimes need to limit repetition:

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  • Since (e.g., “Since the pilot experiment failed, we had to start again.”)
  • Due to (e.g., “The failure was due to several oversights.”)
  • As a result (e.g., “As a result of these omissions, the results are unreliable.”)

3.     Including/Includes

The term “including” is most commonly used to introduce examples of something just mentioned, including in this sentence you’re reading right now. See what we did there? It can also be used to describe something contained within a whole (e.g., “It will take a full week, including Sunday.”)

If you’re using “includes” a lot in a paper, you might want to consider these variations:

  • Such as (e.g., “I collect tools, such as hammers and tongs.”)
  • Like (e.g., “I eat fruit, like apples and pears.”)
  • Incorporates (e.g., “The design incorporates many useful features.”)

4.     Said

The word “said” is most overused when quoting sources (e.g., “Costello said that ‘there’s nothing underhand that she won’t understand’”). Your options here include:

  • Claimed (e.g., “Holland claimed…”)
  • Argued (e.g., “Weller argued…”)
  • Stated (e.g., “Suggs stated…”)

5.     Important

The term “important” is used to emphasize the significance or value of something, so overusing it can undermine its impact. Substitutes include:

  • Significant (e.g., “The most significant finding…”)
  • Vital (e.g., “It is vital to remember that…”)
  • Crucial (e.g., “Addressing this problem is crucial in order to…”)

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