An archaism refers to an out-of-style word or phrase, such as “whilst,” “thusly,” or “thou.”
When cultivating your own personal writing style, it’s important that you avoid sounding artificial. And one surefire way to sound artificial is to produce stilted writing by loading your paper with old theatrical-sounding words. Here are some archaisms commonly found in student writing (ones to avoid):
- Thusly: You can use “thus” in writing, but be careful not to overuse it. Constantly repeating the word “thus” can make your writing sound unnatural. Try varying your transitional language by incorporating phrases like “as such,” “as a result,” or “in effect.” “Thusly,” however, should never be used. When have you ever heard that word used in modern-day society?
- Hence: This is perhaps the most abused term in student papers. It’s often found in the middle of the sentence (in place of a comma and conjunction). See the following example:
“This Facebook user’s profile contained many inappropriate pictures hence it affected my perception of her credibility.”
Using “hence” in this way causes the sentence to become a run-on. Rather than using “hence,” try the following:
- “This Facebook user’s profile contained many inappropriate pictures, which brought her credibility into question.”
- “This Facebook user’s profile contained many inappropriate pictures; as a result, I questioned her credibility.”
- “This Facebook user’s profile contained many inappropriate pictures, so I questioned her credibility.”
You see, there is no reason to use the word “hence” when you have a variety of options available to you. The key is to sound like yourself—perhaps a more formal version of yourself, depending upon the assignment, but certainly not a stilted or unnatural version.
- Hitherto: While this word may be used sometimes in scholarly writing, it is still a bit archaic. It means “previously,” so why not just say “previously”? The latter is used much more regularly and will give your paper a more conversational tone.
So, consider your audience—you want your diction (word choice) to be suited to your audience, and you want your reader to hear your own voice. That means that unless you’re talking to Shakespeare, don’t write like him. Be yourself.