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Remove the mist from your academic writing

What are vague verbs?

Similar to phrasal verbs, there are vague verbs that require a high degree of context to determine their meaning. These verbs include do, get, give and make. Consider the following examples:

  • I will do the dishes
  • We will get married in March
  • They gave him a warning
  • The microchips are made in China

Why should you avoid using vague verbs in academic writing?

Being precise is a core component of academic writing. Each of the above verbs can be used in different contexts with different meaning. For example, do sports is very different to do the dishes. Likewise, get married is different to get ready. The point here is that there is a more specific term possible for each of these instances, one that does not present any ambiguity.

How can you avoid vague verbs?

Look at your verbs and think about how precise they are. Is there another verb that more accurately conveys the action or state? Check your thesaurus for ideas.

In the examples above a more precise term could be used to avoid any possible confusion:

  • I will wash the dishes
  • We will marry in March
  • He received a warning
  • The microchips are manufactored in China

The verbs used in these sentences are more precise and, importantly, fewer words are needed to convey meaning.