Archaisms are out-of-style words or phrases, such as “whilst,” “thusly,” or “thou.” Use of archaisms in your writing creates a stilted, inauthentic voice, tone, persona. Use of archaisms in your writing creates a stilted, inauthentic tone. Learn to identify archaisms in your work and the work of others.

Archaisms, like this old Verbatim Datalife CD, reflected outdated language practices

What is an Archaism?

An archaism is an out-of-style word or phrase, such as “whilst,” “thusly,” or “thou.”

Key Concepts: Diction

Why Do Archaisms Matter?

When cultivating your own personal writing style, you want to avoid sounding stilted, rehearsed, artificial. And one surefire way to sound artificial is to produce stilted writing by loading your text 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?
  • 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.

[ List of Archaisms ]

So, consider your audience—you want your diction 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.

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