Avoid Menu Comments


First Person - Avoid using first person in formal writing.

Second Person - Avoid using second person in formal writing.

Third Person - Do not refer to yourself in the third person.

Editorial We - Use 'we' only when referring to yourself and your coauthors.

Anthropomorphism, Contractions, Pronoun Ambiguity

Anthropomorphism - Expression of human qualities should not be used when referring to animals or things.

Contractions - Avoid using contractions in formal writing.

Pronoun Ambiguity - Do not use a pronoun to represent the ideas in a clause, sentence, or passage, unless there is no room for ambiguity.

Informal Language

Weak - The language in this passage is too weak. Do not use qualifying language (e.g., seems or tends) when definitive language is appropriate.

Strong - Be careful in the use of overly strong, definitive language. Rarely are current or historical events, research, or peoples' behaviors easily defined by a single perspective. Be cautious in over-stating points as ꞌꞌtruthꞌꞌ or ꞌꞌprovenꞌꞌ or ꞌꞌunquestionable,ꞌꞌ as they may not only be untrue, unproven, and questionable, but may also undermine the strength of the paper.

Dramatic - Colorful and dramatic language or overly creative writing undermines the strength of the paper and distracts the reader from the paper's key message. Revise this section to better support the arguments or points being made.

Vague - Vague language can diminish the overall quality of a paper and allow a reader to misunderstand key themes, points, or arguments. Revise this section to increase its clarity.

Casual - Casual language can diminish the overall quality of a paper and allow a reader to misunderstand key themes, points, or arguments. Revise this section to increase its clarity.

Quote Overuse - Direct quotes should be used sparingly. Paraphrase and integrate this passage.

Rhetorical Questions - Avoid using rhetorical questions in formal writing as they rarely add any value.

Unfamiliar and Overuse

Unfamiliar Term - This term is not familiar enough to use without definition. Define this term the first time you use it in text so that the reader understands the use of the term throughout the paper.

Term Overuse - The overuse of technical terms (i.e., jargon) that are unnecessary or irrelevant weakens the paper. Try to be creative in word expression and not use the same term repeatedly.


Labeling - Make sure when identifying people - especially living persons - that sensitivity is given in how they are labeled. For example, an appropriate way to address a group of people within a paper would be 'individuals who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder' rather than addressing the group as 'the personality disorder group.'

Race and Ethnicity Insensitivity - Specific appropriate terms should be used in reference to ethnicity and race consistently throughout the paper.

Gender Bias - Rewrite this passage to remove the masculine pronoun that refers to both sexes. This can be done through the use of articles (e.g., a police officer) or plural nouns (e.g., when police officers . . .,  they . . .).


Plagiarism - This passage appears to be plagiarized. Plagiarism includes: a) failing to cite another’s work when you have used that person’s ideas; b) copying another’s work or just changing a word or two in a passage or phrase (even if you cite it); c) copying another’s work without appropriate quotation citation; or d) copying your own work without appropriate citation. Make sure that your paper does not contain plagiarism.