Index of Prohibited Words for Academic Writing

Note: This is a style sheet, not a censorship issue, and has nothing to do with so-called "political correctness!" Please print out this list and follow it. More than one prohibited word in any formal assignment [except in a direct quote, of course] will normally mean an automatic rewrite in my classes. Please be aware that this style sheet applies only to high-medium style academic writing, and any or all of these words may be considered completely appropriate for less formal subjects, discourse communities or writing situations.


·        Ain't

·        & for "and."

·        And etcetera [also, and etc.].  Try to avoid overuse of "etc." 

·        Awesome [except when the word means "awe-inspiring," "grand," or "mighty"].

·        Bad [if used to mean "good" or "powerful", or if used to mean "error," as in "My bad."].

·        Bunch of [except when referring to flowers or root vegetables]  [also, buncha, whole bunch of, whole buncha].

·        All contractions, such as don't, won't, isn't, can't, couldn't, etc.  The exception is in common titles, such as "Dr. Garcés," "Sgt. Smith," "Ms. Eaglefeather," "Rev. Trung" or "Mrs. Ayoub." 

·        Cool [except when the word refers to temperature or to a standoffish attitude].

·        Cuz  or 'Cuz for either “because” or “cousin.”

·        Damn or damned [except when the word is used in a strict religious context].  Also, Dammit, Dang, Darn, Blasted, Confounded, or other informal variants and substitutes of "damned.". .

·        Freakin' or other informal substitutes for the "F" word. 

·        Going to, gon to, gonna--[use "will" instead].

·        Got, get, gotten, gotta. 

·        I figure  [except when writing about arithmetic or mathematics]..

·        I guess. 

·        I think [except when discussing philosophy and the fact that you are a thinking being].

·        In my opinion,  In my humble opinion, IMHO.

·        Kill, or Murder [except when writing about someone actually taking a life. Obviously, making idle written death-threats, even in jest, could violate Texas law and University regulations and is strictly prohibited in academic writing].  E.g., "I swear I will murder the next person who leaves me with a sink of dirty dishes!"

·        Kind of, kinda..

·        Lots of, a lot of [except when writing about auctioneering or the wholesale business]. Also, Lotsa.

·        Man or Mankind when referring to all humanity [except when referring to males only].

·        Nice.

·        No Way, Nope, Not On Your Life, Ni Modo, or other informal variants of "no."

·        Not, when used alone as a denial. [E.g., "Sarah Palin thinks she will be president some day. Not!"].

·        Nowadays, now a days, now days, these days [unless the writer is over 70 years old]. 

·        All online or text message abbreviations (e.g., @ for "at," "BTW" for "by the way," “b/c” for “because,” "LOL" for "laugh out loud,”. “W/” for "with."

·        Pretty much.

·        All racist, sexist, homophobic or discriminatory language [For most undergraduate work please consider "bleeping" out this type of language with the ellipsis (three dots) even when it appears in direct quotes, The only exception might be when your writing directly addresses the question of this type of language itself].

·        Ruff [the correct spelling is "rough"],.except when referring to animal neck fur, or to a clown-style neck decoration.

·        All slang, including slang uses of ordinary words (e.g., "That's totally weird").

·        Several (if used to mean more than about 20).  [E.g., "Several" people can ride in an SUV. "Many" people are alcoholics in the United States.].

·        Smileys :)  ,  :(

·        So-so, and so? 

·        Sort of, sorta.

·        "Spanglish" terms or expressions, unless in a quote or for purposes of study as linguistic phenomena. [If Spanish or other non-English language terms are  used or quoted, they must always be spelled correctly, including accents if required!] .

·        Stuff [except as a verb, to "stuff" a couch cushion, a plush toy, a chile pepper, etc.]

·        Stupid [also, dumb, crazy, idiotic, cracked, nuts, insane, out of his gourd, one brick short  of  a load, or similar discriminatory put-downs].

·        Try and  [use "try to" or "attempt to" instead].

·        Tuff [the correct spelling is "tough"], except in the context of geology. 

·        All vulgarities, obscenities and profanities [except in direct quotes].  When referring to body parts, use anatomically correct adult names. Otherwise, normally do not use any word that you would not say in front of your parents or in front of a religious congregation. ]. 

·        Wanna..

·        Was like, when used in writing dialogue  [e.g. "So he was like, 'Don't bother me'"].

·        Yeah, Yesss..., Yup, or other informal variants of "yes."

·        You,  your, or yours  [except when used to directly address a specific audience of readers].

·        You all [also, y'all]. 

Student suggestions for additional prohibited words are invited! 

O.W. rev 04/09

For educational purposes only.

Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655

The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
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