Vague Language

Use concrete and sensory language rather than vague language to communicate well with readers.

Provide the details readers need to follow your message.

Teachers in school settings as well as readers in workplace settings abhor vagueness. If you say, “Research suggests that drinking grape juice lowers cholesterol,” they’ll ask, “What research? How was the research conducted? Who conducted the research? Did the results appear in a credible source?”

When writing, you may use words or phrases that convey rich meaning to you. A word like “stuff” or “thing” can encapsulate other words, stories, and events in your mind, but in your readers’ mind the words can mean something altogether different.

As you read through your document, question whether language is as specific and exact as necessary by considering the following six questions:

  1. Have I used any words that need to be “unpacked,” words that mean a lot to me that readers may not understand without additional clarifications?
  2. Have I appealed to the five senses when possible?
  3. Have I used the first-person voice as opposed to the passive voice, when appropriate?
  4. Have I defined terms and concepts the reader may not understand?
  5. Have I provided specific examples to support my claims?
  6. Have I provided evidence and cited the evidence as required by my readers?

See also:

Write with clarity
Incorporate figurative language into your paper
avoid archaisms, jargon, and cliches