An award-winning collaborative, global project.

This wiki is no longer being updated. But it is still available for anyone who wants to make style decisions based on evidence and data.


Part of: Clear language

Words to avoid

Last updated: 26 March, 2020

Following this helps people with:

  • time pressures: clear vocabulary is easier to scan and absorb

  • stress: jargon and metaphor will be hard to comprehend

  • multi-tasking: no time to decipher complex language

  • limited fluency: less extensive vocabulary

  • cognitive impairments: simple words carry less cognitive load

  • dyslexia: clear, concise language is more helpful

  • low literacy: who read text word by word

  • sight loss: RNIB recommend using plain English

  • autism: National Autistic Society advise against the use of jargon

  • first language sign language: vocabulary may be less familiar


Think about what you’re actually doing and describe that. Be open and specific.

1. Never use vague words and jargon.

2. Avoid metaphors.

3. Do not use Latin.

Usability evidence


1. Never use vague words and jargon.

Vague words mean nothing. They waste time and irritate users. They also limit understanding, and can make users trust your content less. 

Jargon usually means something else. It causes confusion.


  • agenda – unless it’s for a meeting

  • advancing

  • collaborate – use working with

  • combating

  • commit/pledge – we need to be more specific, we’re either doing something or we’re not

  • countering

  • deliver – pizzas, post and services are delivered, not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities

  • deploy – unless it’s military or software

  • dialogue – we speak to people

  • disincentivise – and incentivise

  • empower

  • facilitate – instead, say something specific about how you’re helping

  • focusing

  • foster – unless it’s children

  • impact – do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence

  • initiate

  • key – unless it unlocks something: a subject/thing is not "key", it’s probably important

  • land – as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft

  • leverage – unless in the financial sense

  • liaise

  • overarching

  • progress – as a verb: what are you actually doing?

  • promote – unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion

  • robust

  • signposting – giving instructions or directions, providing navigation or links

  • slimming down – processes do not diet

  • streamline

  • strengthening – unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures

  • tackling – unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport

  • transforming – what are you actually doing to change it?

  • utilise – use "use"

2. Avoid metaphors.

Avoid using metaphors. They do not say what you actually mean. This is likely to lead to slower comprehension of your content.


  • drive – you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people

  • drive out – unless it’s cattle

  • going forward – it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions

  • in order to – superfluous, do not use it

  • ring fencing – unless you are putting up a fence, in a circle

3. Do not use Latin.


  • "per annum", instead "each year"

  • "eg", instead "for example"

  • "ie", instead "that is"

  • "pro bono", instead "for free"

Usability evidence

GOV.UK Style guide A to Z, UK Government website

Plain English and words to avoid, UK Government website, listed originally compiled by Sarah Richards and Janet Hughes, 2013

'Jargon in Technical Writing', J. H. Dawson, ARS, Prosser, WA 99350, Weed Technology, 1989, Volumne 3:540 2008

'The Basic Spelling Vocabulary List', Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, Connie Loynachan, Reading Rockets, 2013

'ASD Simplified Technical English', Simplified Technical English, ASD-STE100, 2017

List of plain English words and phrases, Wikipedia, last updated 2018


Hemingway app tool tool

Relevant wiki content:

In this section: