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What are vague nouns?

Nouns such as stuff, thing, and way are inherently vague. Their possible references are vast and do not refer to a precise object for discussion. Consider the following sentences:

  • There are lots of things that can be done
  • We have some stuff that needs to be discussed in this meeting
  • There are lots of ways to learn a language

When introducing ideas or speaking globally, we often use vague terms but, in academic writing, precision is needed.

Why should you avoid using vague noun phrases in academic writing?

Vague terms present ambiguity and a lack of clarity. This should be avoided in academic writing.

How can we avoid using vague nouns?

Be as precise as possible. Use accepted umbrella terms to introduce points and make sure to provide more detail in the following sentences. Consider the following changes:

  • There are a number of solutions that can be adopted
  • We have several points on the agenda that need to be discussed in this meeting
  • There are a number of methods to learn a language

These terms still require clarification in following sentences, but they are official umbrella terms for the context, whereas things, stuff and ways are not.