Words to avoid

This resource is an archived version of the Readability Guidelines.

New wiki is at: readabilityguidelines.myxwiki.org
Go to the Words to avoid page.


Avoid using these words as they can create confusion:

  • agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
  • advancing
  • collaborate (use working with)
  • combating
  • commit/pledge (we need to be more specific - we’re either doing something or we’re not)
  • countering
  • deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered - not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities)
  • deploy (unless it’s military or software)
  • dialogue (we speak to people)
  • disincentivise (and incentivise)
  • empower
  • facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you’re helping)
  • focusing
  • foster (unless it’s children)
  • impact (do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence)
  • initiate
  • key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing is not key – it’s probably important)
  • land (as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft)
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense)
  • liaise
  • overarching
  • progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
  • promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
  • robust
  • slimming down (processes do not diet)
  • streamline
  • strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
  • tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
  • transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
  • utilise (use "use")

Avoid using metaphors – they do not say what you actually mean and lead to slower comprehension of your content. For example:

  • drive (you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people)
  • drive out (unless it’s cattle)
  • going forward (it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions)
  • in order to (superfluous - do not use it)
  • ring fencing

With all of these words you can generally replace them by breaking the term into what you’re actually doing. Be open and specific.

Usability evidence

The specific recommendations on this page come from:

GOV.UK Style guide A to Z, UK Government website
Plain English and words to avoid, UK Government website

Supporting evidence around avoiding jargon and indirect language:

'Jargon in Technical Writing', J. H. Dawson, ARS, Prosser, WA 99350, Weed Technology, 1989, Volumne 3:540 2008

'The Basic Spelling Vocabulary List', Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, Connie Loynachan, Reading Rockets, 2013

'ASD Simplified Technical English', Simplified Technical English, ASD-STE100, 2017

List of plain English words and phrases, Wikipedia, last updated 2018

Tools worth exploring:

Hemmingway app tool

Readable tool

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