Banish These Words, 2014

Previously I told you to banish the words “unique” and “burgeoning.”

Here is a new set of painfully overused, excruciatingly tedious, annoyingly self-important, and frustratingly vacant words  to be banished in 2014:

Banish these adjectives:

real-world  (what does that mean, anyway?)

profound  (your topic/analysis/approach is far less profound than you believe)

crucial   (nothing we do in the academy is actually crucial. I’m sorry. It just isn’t.)

Banish this word in every form:




deepen  (no.  Just no.  In particular, please, I beg you, don’t tell us how you’re going to “deepen your analysis.”)

Banish this word in every form:



nuancing (yes, some of you, I’m sorry to say, make it a verb.)

For further elaboration, please see: Grad Student Grandiosity

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Banish These Words, 2014 — 24 Comments

  1. You’re so bad ass Karen. This Grandiosity Rant made my day. Thanks. And thanks for continuing to offer your great advice.

  2. Please consider adding “problematize” if it hasn’t made previous lists (and reaffirm the ban if it has! It won’t go away).

  3. I would suggest to add “novel” and to some extent “evironmentally friendly”. Unless is really a top journal. No, it’s not that novel. And if you don’t take into consideration the entire process, there’s a huge probability that whatever you do is not really environmentally friendly.

    Those two concepts burn into my retinas as “BS” when I read them.

    • I despise “novel” but it only shows up in science stuff, so I’ve hesitated to banish it, since I wondered if it had special standing in those fields.

      • mmmmm… not really. As a matter of fact some journals even request it not to be used in titles. And another argument… if it was not novel it wouldn’t be published. >_>

  4. My favorite ones? I hear them at every conference, many faculty meetings, then wind up on everyone’s CVs:

    1. Sustainability

    2. Beyond

    The latter makes my hair stand on end. “Beyond Communication” “Beyond Ethics”, or the best one ever, “Beyond Sustainability”.

    I’ve never heard a “Beyond” talk that is actually “novel”. Rant complete 😉

  5. Is real-world entirely fair? I do theoretical computer science research and there is a distinction between algorithms that are actually used in practice and those that are theoretically valid but so complicated they can’t actually be coded (or at least probably won’t ever be). We usually distinguish the two by saying the former are used in “real-world applications” whereas the latter are “theoretical results.” Or should it still be banished?

    • if it works in your field in a distinctive way, then of course you should use it. That’s not the issue among the vast majority of clients who just scatter it indiscriminately in their teaching statements.

  6. Ok, if a Teaching Statement should be one page, how long should a Teaching and Research Statement be…two pages? I find that the Research part is much longer because it requires more details not only future aims, but evidence of past experiences which make those aims likely to be achieved…

  7. Could you please add “unpack?” The overuse of that word drives me nuts! OK, the fact that this word even became a part of our popular lexicon in the first place drives me nuts! It comes across as one of those words that people use to sound cool, regardless of whether or not that was the intent.

    • I also loathe this word. But the word has to cross a threshold of overuse to make it into a “Banish” post, and “unpack” hasn’t quite hit that yet!

      • Not too long ago I heard someone say they would “unpick the theoretical assumptions of… blah blah blah.” I guess “unpack” needed to be trumped?

  8. Um, what we do IS crucial sometimes! When I talked a student off the ledge after she was raped, I helped her stay alive. Please don’t essentialize!

  9. Pingback: Banish These Words, 2016 Edition | The Professor Is In

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