How to Avoid Colloquial Language in Your Academic Papers

How to Avoid Colloquial Language in Your Academic Papers
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Academic writing requires you to use formal language to convey your ideas to the audience as clearly and precisely as possible. Colloquial language is restricted to informal use, being a part of spoken English. Colloquial language is a bad choice for academic papers because it doesn’t allow you to express ideas clearly and unequivocally.

Your goal as an author is to make a serious impression, while colloquialisms undermine such a goal, making your writing too casual and not detailed. Therefore, we recommend that you replace any colloquialisms with their formal equivalents when writing academic papers. If you don’t know how to do it, just check out this quick guide at

What You Should Avoid

Some categories of colloquialisms are absolutely inappropriate for academic papers. For example, these are vulgar expressions and slang. However, we also recommend that you avoid the following categories.


Clichés are expressions that are commonly used in speech but shouldn’t be used in formal writing. For example: “read between the lines,” “time will tell,” etc. Not only do these expressions lack meaning, but they are also unoriginal, which is a big problem for an academic paper.


This is another category of expressions that are commonly used in spoken English yet inappropriate in academic writing. An example of an idiom is “a drop in the ocean.” These expressions have the same problem as clichés, as they lack meaning and are not specific. Another problem with idioms is that readers might understand them literally if their language skills are not good enough, completely misinterpreting the meaning of your paper.


Fillers are words like “so,” “very,” “even,” etc. We use fillers in speech to maintain a certain rhythm and to emphasize some phrases. However, these words are useless in academic writing. Moreover, they distract readers from valuable content, so we suggest that you avoid fillers, as well.

Formal Equivalents

If you use a good dictionary or Google, you’ll quickly find formal equivalents to colloquialisms. For instance, if you google “define to hand,” you’ll find out that the expression “to hand” means something within easy reach. There are also many dictionaries, such as Macquarie Dictionary, that allow you to quickly find idioms that include certain words with their formal definitions.

If you google colloquial expressions, the search results will contain links to various online dictionaries, and not all of them are equally good. Thus, make sure that you use only reliable sources, such as the Oxford Dictionary, Merriam Webster, the Collins Dictionary, the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the Cambridge Dictionary, or the MacMillan Dictionary.

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