forbidden words

The following is a list of the web editor's pet peeves. It is intended to make writers think more about simple use of English, and for editors to cut jargon where possible.

Don't use the following words or constructions, except in direct quotes.

Access (as a verb)

And/or (Logic gates do not belong in prose)

Anomalous – results are not anomalous, they are “unexpected”



Colloquium – say "seminar" 

Component  – part

Elucidate – say “find out”

et al. – say "and colleague" or "and their team"

Facilitate – “help”

Further research is needed (or anything like that)

Holy Grail – an over–used metaphor

However  – why use however when you can just say "but"?

Impact (as a verb)

Informed (people can be informed. As for “The discussion was informed…”?)

Initiate – use start

In order to – almost always redundant. Just say "to"


Interested in (as in, “Dr. Frankenstein is interested in tissue regeneration.” – it makes it sound boring)

It has been shown… By who?

Literally (even if it’s used accurately, the word is generally useless)

Material properties





Multiple (as in many? Then just use many)

Novel (the adjective is banned. Say “new”. The noun, as in War and Peace, is fine.)



Paradigm shift

Parameter (also, parameterize)

Scientists have learned in recent years that(A dodge to escape explaining what actually happened)



System (as in, “He chose atoms as a system to study”)

Synergy (corporate jargon that we can all do without)

This (if there is no antecedent in sight)


Trivial (in the way scientists like to use it: “This problem is trivial.” Non–trivial is even worse.)

Utilize – say “use”

Via – use “through” or “by”

Very – This word is almost always redundant. It’s not “very big”, it’s huge, vast, or enormous. "Very small"? – No. Tiny, minute, etc. The exceptions are when "very" is used to mean "actual; precise" as in those were his very words, or to mean "without addition; mere" as in the very thought made her shudder. Those uses are fine.

We  – as in “We now accurately know the diameter of the proton.” We includes your readers, most of whom don’t know until you tell them. Even worse are constructions such as "We've all laughed at Charlie-Chaplin films". No we haven't!

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