Ug words are the words that make us instructors say “UG!” when we read them. So, you should avoid using them at all costs.
The following words and phrases are used too often in our vocabulary and as such don’t really mean anything to us. If any of the following are in your essay, you should replace them with more concrete or more formal words:
a lot, lots
get (most of the time, you can find a better word)
great (only on rare occasions)
I think, I feel (or “feel” by itself), I believe, in my opinion, etc.
in today’s society (or any variation of “in today’s” where “today” can suffice)
it is . . . (when the “it” has no clear antecendent; e.g., “It is important not to plagiarize.”)
one (as in a person)
quote (unless used properly)
says (say, said)
society (referring to a vague, indifferent group)
states (state, stated)
there are . . .
well, now, yeah (and any other conversational words)
you (unless your instructor gives you permission to use second person)
And speaking of “thing” . . .
Handout courtesy of Cheryl Smith
Don’t Get Caught in the “Thing” Trap When you write sentences, you may find yourself using the word “thing” too much. To move away from this problem, try one of the words in the list or any other words that fit the subject of your paper.
Better: As I read about Ben Franklin, I learned that his life was filled with challenges.
Weak: The authors discussed three things about ever-changing technology.
Better: The article described three features about ever-changing technology.
Weak: The instructor did two things to encourage all her students to read more.
Better: The instructor started two projects to encourage her students to read more.
Weak: Of all the things the characters did in the book, living in the underwater home was the most exciting.
Better: Of all the adventures the characters had in the book, living in the underwater home was the most exciting.
Avoiding Clichés You can bet your bottom dollar that clichés fall on deaf ears. Even though students heave a sigh of relief because they think they have hit the nail on the head when they use clichés, they are actually up a creek without a paddle because clichés stick out like a sore thumb. When you come right down to it, you may as well whistle Dixie because clichés are like a house afire. It goes without saying that students should make a clean breast of using clichés so their writing can be as fresh as a daisy. So take the bull by the horns and fight like a tiger to avoid clichés. Below is a list to help you identify some of the more common ones.