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Be more precise by avoiding informal verb phrases in your writing

What are informal verb phrases?

Informal verb phrases, such as phrasal verbs, are used frequently in spoken language and their meanings can change across different contexts. For example, the phrasal verb bring up can mean to raise children or in a different context to mention an issue. This can present ambiguity of meaning and, in academic writing, we need to be as specific as possible. Consider the following examples:

  • The business will cut down expenses by reducing its number of employees
  • The government put in place measures to lower public debt

Each of these verbs can be used in multiple contexts with different meanings. For example, cut down trees is different to cut down expenses. Likewise, put someone in their place is different to put something in place.

Why should you avoid using informal verb phrases in academic writing?

While many people may be able to see the differences in meaning from context, writing for an international audience requires precision and clarity. Possible differences in meaning in verbs do not achieve this. Therefore, writers should select more precise terms.

How can you avoid informal verb phrases?

Ambiguity in meaning can be avoided by choosing a more specific verb phrase. The above examples could change to the following:

  • The business will decrease expenses by reducing its number of employees
  • The government implemented measures to lower public debt.

These changes are designed to make our writing more precise, a key component of academic writing. Check your thesaurus for a more concise term.