Some Things to Avoid in an Essay

New data in conclusion

A clever or pithy quotation can provide your conclusion with a nice kick, but data belongs in the body of your essay.

In conclusion

This expression is always redundant in a written essay because the reader can see that the paper is coming to an end.  Ditto, in closing and finally.  In a spoken address, however, such expressions are admissible.  They can even single blesséd relief when an ill-received palaverous speech is presented to a bored and restroom-ready audience.

As previously stated

You are padding your paper and then bragging about it—a double Bozo no-no.


Only use the expression most when you can support your assertion with data that confirms that the phenomenon to which you are referring occurs with a frequency of at least 50.1%.   If you write in your paper that most Americans hate broccoli, then you must provide polling data from the American Association of Vegetable Eaters that backs up your claim.  It is otherwise preferable to say that many people dislike the highly nutritious flower head.  Even if only three percent of Americans actually detest the vegetable, nine million broccoli-haters are still a lot of people.

Some Commonly abused expressions

Try to instead of try and

This solecism is so commonly uttered in English that it has practically become the standard usage in all but the most refined settings.  When writing an essay, however, it is still necessary to use the expression try to do something instead of try and do something.  But I expect the linguistic police to throw in the towel on this one some time during the next half century or so.

By and large instead of buy in large

By and large means generally.  However, the expression buy in large is correct when followed by the word quantities.

Cut and dried instead of cut and dry

I once heard Executive Assistant District Attorney Mike Cutter use this common faux pas on the long-running NBC drama Law and OrderCut and dried means done according to a set and planned procedure. When I lived in Mount Baldy and firewood was my only source of heat, my neighbors warned me that if I burned green wood—wood that had not been allowed at least one year to dry out after being cleaved from its roots—I risked clogging my chimney with creosote and burning down the entire neighborhood.

For all intents and purposes instead of for all intensive purposes

For all intents and purposes means effectively, practically, or essentially.  I used to have a boss who would routinely use the common blunder for all intensive purposes during staff meetings.  I wisely rejected the near-overwhelming temptation to correct him on several occasions.

Whether they are correctly utilized or not or not, the following phrases do not strengthen your argument:

It is widely known that…
The population agrees that…
The fact is that…
It is common knowledge that…

So save your instructor some time, energy, and red ink by excising them before you turn in your final draft.

It is widely known that drunk driving is dangerous.
The population agrees that America is the greatest country ever.
The fact is that there are seven days in a week.
It is common knowledge that Donatello is the coolest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

by Richard W. Bray

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