11 Essay Phrases To Outlaw Something

Ask any teacher who has ever spent every single minute of a beautiful weekend grading student essays and he or she will tell you this: In the garden that is student writing, certain “weeds” pop up again and again, and yes, again. These words and phrases—we’ll just call them bad writing habits—obscure meaning and undermine even the strongest argument. Every year, teachers work hard to eradicate these should-be-outlawed phrases, yet still they persist.

So we decided to make a list of the worst offenders. We asked middle- and high-school teachers: “What are the phrases in student writing that make you cringe, wail, and gnash your teeth?” From hundreds of responses, we narrowed it down to a carefully chosen list of Outlawed Words and Phrases.

 (Click here to download and print a mini-poster version for your classroom).

  • Since the beginning of time…

    Throughout the whole of history…

    Example: “Since the beginning of time, countries have fought in wars.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: These statements are vague, hyperbolic, and very difficult to prove as we have no historical reports on the moment time began.

  • My paper is going to be about ….

    Hi, my name is ______, and I am going to tell you about …

    This paragraph is about…

    Example: “Hi, My name is Bryce and I am going to tell you about cell reproduction.”

    Why It’s Outlawed:  Just tell us. Don’t tell us what you’re going to tell us or write how you’re going to write about it. If using phrases like these help you to get started on a draft, that’s fine. Just remember to remove them before submitting your final version.

  • Very

    Example: “Benjamin Franklin was a very fascinating man.”

    Why It’s Outlawed:Very is a word that is often over-used. Be sure you are adding meaning, not It weakening the point you are trying to make. Cross it out!

  • Kind of

    Sort of

    Example: “The War of 1812 was kind of an important turning point in the history of the United States.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: Using “kind of” and “sort of” makes you sound unsure of your argument. Was it an important turning point or wasn’t it? And sorta isn’t a word at all.

  • A wise man once said…

    Example: “A wise man once said: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: Who is this “wise man” you speak of? If you can find the source, identify it. If you are quoting a commonly used idiom or cliché, chances are you should cross it out and use your own words instead.

  • The reason why is because…

    Example: “Macbeth and Lady Macbeth decide to murder King Duncan. The reason why is because they want Macbeth to become the next king.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: The phrase “the reason why is because” is grammatically incorrect and unnecessary.  Cross out these four words, “The reason why is,” and combine the remaining words with the previous sentence to make one sentence. Then, re-read the sentence. It still makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • It’s just my opinion but …

    Example: “It’s just my opinion but I think Teddy Roosevelt was a better president and leader than Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: Own it! The whole point of an essay is to express your point of view. Delete this timid phrase and any others like it.

  • Like… like… like

    Example: “The Supreme Court made like the wrong decision in Bush vs. Gore. Like the course of history was decided by a hanging chad.”

    Why It’s Outlawed: If the word like appears in your writing and it is not used as a verb (“to like”) or as a synonym for “similar to,” remove it immediately. Enough said.

  • Things


    Example: “There were a lot of things wrong with the way the Southern states viewed slavery.” 

    Why It’s Outlawed:  Most of the time, there’s a more specific and accurate word than things you could use in your writing that would strengthen your argument. In the case of the example, a good writer would look for a more powerful word or phrase that means “things wrong with” such as faults, errors, or defects.

  • I hope you liked this essay. That’s all I have to say.

    …And that’s what my paper was about.

    Example: “I hoped you liked my essay about why kangaroos are dangerous. Thanks for reading.” 

    Why It’s Outlawed: Your conclusion is your last opportunity to persuade your reader not to beg your reader to like you.

  • #11  LOL, Grt, OMG, WDYT, IDK, JK

    Example: “The ending of The Diary of Anne Frank was so sad OMG.” 

    Why It’s Outlawed:Text-speak does not belong in a formal essay. Such acronyms and abbreviations are general and vague. Expressing outrage in writing demands more than an “OMG” and joy should be represented more than by a smiley face. OMG and LOL have no place in writing. Unless, of course, you want your teacher to LOL!

  • Teachers: Download the Poster of these Outlaws and then tell us: What phrase do you come across in student writing that belongs on this list?


    Thank you for your overwhelming response to our last Essay Writing Contest. Sadly, some of you faced issues in submitting your essays, and so as promised, we are back with our next Essay Writing Contest. Lifesaver Essays believes in encouraging new writers and give a direction to their skills.

    This time the guidelines are a lot more fun to follow 🙂

    Anyone, from any country, is free to apply! There is no entry fee!


    1) Word count – The essay should be at least 800 words and not over 1300 words. Essays violating this criteria will not be evaluated.

    2) Topic – Our team of writers have come out with a list of topics that are interesting, engaging and fun to write on. It is mandatory to choose a topic from that list. The list can be found below this section. Choose ANY ONE topic.

    3) Plagiarism – All essays must be absolutely original and in your own words. We will check the essays for plagiarism. Copied essays will be disqualified.

    4) Images – Images are encouraged. You are free to use images but they must be copyright-free.

    5) Format – Submissions are accepted only in Microsoft Word documents (doc or docx).

    6) Cover Page – The cover page of your essay must contain your complete details such as your full name, phone number and email.

    7) Language – The essay must be written in English.

    Panel of Judges

    Every essay will be review by our expert team of best writers. Our top writers will go through each essay and by a mutual consent, choose the winners.

    Essays will be judged on relevance of the content, quality, depth of research, structure, flow, grammar and overall readability.

    We will not be able to acknowledge receipt of each essay, but be assured if your essay has been submitted, it will be evaluated.


    Choose ANY one

    1. Impact of essay writing services on students – do they curb their growth or help them develop?

    2. Unconventional but effective management practices to enhance workplace productivity

    3. Can academic writing skills translate to employability skills in a corporate career?

    4. How do you think education will change in the next 40 years?

    5. Is face to face learning better than online learning?

    How to apply

    To submit your essay, the first step is to “Like” our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LifeSaverEssays and “Share” the details of our Essay Writing Contest on your timeline. Let your friends know you are enterprising!

    Alternatively, you can also “Follow” us on Twitter at @lifesaveressays or https://twitter.com/lifesaveressays and “Retweet” our tweet about the contest.

    Once this is done, do not forget to take a screenshot of the same and paste it on the second page of your essay, after your cover page which will have your personal details.

    Essay submitted without a valid screenshot will be disqualified.

    After you paste the screenshot, once your essay is ready, you can upload it now.

    To upload your essay, visit our website Lifesaver Essays and visit the Essay Contest page. You will find the button to upload your essay there.

    We will not be able to acknowledge each entry, but if you have uploaded, be assured we would have received it, and it will be evaluated.


    The Essay Writing Contest is open from 11 October 2016 to 11:59 PM, 31 January 2017, PDT.

    Winners will be announced on 25 February, 2017. The winning entries will be published on our Blog http://lifesaveressays.com/blog. Winners will also be contacted through email or phone to get their Paypal or Bank Account details to remit the prize money.

    We might also publish a few other well written essays as a recognition of your hard work. We permit “sharing” of the essays, once they are published, through social media and show your friends your accomplishment. It is indeed commendable to have your essays chosen by our native best writers to be showcased on our website. If you have an objection to your essay being published, you are free to contact us, give the link of your published essay and request for removal.


    1st prize – $600

    2nd prize – $350

    3rd prize – $200

    What to do after submitting the entry

    Once you have submitted your essay, wait patiently. Do not follow up with us through phone, email, messages or live chats, asking us if we received your entries. Visit our Essay Contest page regularly to check for any updates. The winners will be announced on the said date.

    Participating in our Essay Writing Contest automatically constitutes your acceptance to our terms and conditions associated with the contest. The decision of the management will be final regarding announcing the winners.

    Good luck and happy writing!

    UpdateSep-30-2016– Dear contestants, the essays submitted for the contest have been evaluated and we have published the winning entries on the website here. We will also be publishing over 15 other essays (out of hundreds of entries) that demonstrated a good amount of research and writing, with their respective author names. Congratulations to the winners and all the others whose essays have been chosen to be published.

    Winners will be contacted by the company and their prizes released by 10-10-2016. If for some reason, you would not like your essay to be showcased on our blog, please contact us at help@lifesaveressays.com for the essay to be removed. We may also give a chance to some of these writers to work with us in the near future.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Life Saver Essays is hosting an Essay Writing Contest for budding writers. Our goal is to encourage rising talent and promote the spirit of writing, which seems to have diminished.

    TOPIC: You can choose any topic, but we encourage choosing topics that you feel passionately for and where you can voice your opinion. Refrain from choosing overly simple topics. We do not have a set of specific topics because writing is creative and you are free to write on anything you feel for.

    PRIZES:The prizes are sponsored by our partners.

    Winner gets $1000
    The first runner-up gets $750
    The second runner-up gets $500.

    Anyone is free to enter.


    1) The essay should be at least 700 words and not over 1100 words. Essays violating this criteria will not be evaluated.

    2) You can choose any topic, but we encourage choosing topics that you feel passionately for and where you can voice your opinion. Refrain from choosing overly simple topics. We do not have a set of specific topics because writing is creative and you are free to write on anything you feel for.

    3) All essays must be absolutely original and in your own words. Copied essays will be disqualified.

    4) You are free to use images but they must be copyright-free.

    5) Submissions are accepted only in Word documents.

    6) The contest is open from 01 August 2016 to 31 August 2016. Any submissions after that will not be accepted. The final decision will be made by 20 September 2016 and the winners’ details will be mentioned on our website along with their essays.

    7) To submit your essay, simply follow the link above and send it in to us.

    8) The essay will be judged by a panel of expert writers and the top three winners will be intimated through email / phone. The decision of the judges will be final.

    9) The cover page of your essay must contain your complete details such as your full name, phone number, address and the reason why you chose the topic.

    10) The essay must be written in English

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