Have you ever written a paper only to realize that you’re using the same, exact vocabulary over and over again? Acknowledged that you’ve totally used words like “logical”, “thorough,” and “crucial” so many times they’ve lost all meaning? Writing a paper for a college class can feel like a bit of a drag sometimes. When you’re working so hard on structure, citations, and formal academic voice, it’s easy to fall into a rut with your writing style.
For your next paper, it’s time for you to mix it up! Adjectives are the spice cabinet of writing: you can’t have an interesting final product without them. You can also combine them in an infinite number of arrangements for different effects. If you’re tired of the same old words, try out some of these new ideas.
The fastest way to finding new, exciting words to use in your papers? That trusty old friend, the thesaurus. If you’re a little nervous about trying to increase your vocabulary or you can’t think of something off the top of your head, using a thesaurus is a surefire way to ease into it.
The trick here is to look up the ordinary or overused adjective and find a replacement that is a little more unusual or specific. The thesaurus has a ton of words that you can use to substitute for the same old adjectives—and this trick can work for a noun or verb too! If you’re not sure what to say, just use an “ordinary” word and then replace it with something in the thesaurus.
Pretty can become beautiful, cute, comely, attractive, elegant, or many more. Each of these adjectives is a little more evocative and a little less ordinary than just plain pretty.
The issue with commonly used words is that they’re often on the generic side; switching them out for a different adjective can have the dual benefit of making your writing more interesting and making it more specific. When it comes to academic writing, the second-most important thing is that it’s specific. The most important thing, of course, is that you proofread or run a spelling and grammar check on your paper before turning it in!
Let’s try out an example. Imagine you’re writing a paper, and at a certain point, you want to talk about a scientific discovery.
In 1967, scientists made a big discovery.
There is nothing technically wrong with this sentence, but “big” is one of the most generic adjectives out there. Try to find a substitute that adds nuance to your sentence. Even if it’s not an exact synonym, it’s more important to find an unusual adjective that gives more meaning.
In 1967, scientists made an extraordinary discovery.
In 1967, scientists made a game-changing discovery.
In 1967, scientists made a tremendous discovery.
Each of these words carries its own connotations that give a little more texture to the sentence, and that’s important for giving readers a sense of what to expect.
A Word of Warning (Caution, Guidance, Advice)
When you’re using unusual adjectives (or nouns, or verbs), it’s easy to get carried away and include really obscure words just for the fun of it or to try to sound extra smart. Doing this, however, usually leads to the exact opposite effect: a paper full of words like pulchritudinous or capacious will often distract from the actual point of the paper and it won’t sound like you wrote it anymore. Try to walk a middle ground between using words that are unusual enough to spice up your writing without intruding on the style and flow of the paper, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can expand your vocabulary and improve your writing skills!
Now, let’s switch gears and end this post with a friendly reminder to always cite your sources. BibMe.org is here to help you develop your MLA works cited page, APA reference page, an annotated bibliography, and more!