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Why not to use "why"

Scholarly writers should avoid using conversational sayings, colloquial terms and informal words and phrases (i.e., “very,” “a lot,” “carry out” and “shed light on”). While some conversational terms are easy to identify, the sentence below includes a less obvious example.


Original Sentence: Determining WHY women, regardless of age, race and socioeconomic status, remain in physically abusive relationships can provide targeted counseling services for their school-aged children.


The word “why” means "for what cause, reason or purpose" (Merriam-Webster, online); typically, the word is used to ask a question. Since a question is not being asked in this sentence, the edited version of the sentence replaces this word with a more formal synonym.

Edited Sentence: Determining THE REASONS women, regardless of age, race and socioeconomic status, remain in physically abusive relationships can provide targeted counseling services for their school-aged children.


The word “reasons” expresses the same thought as "why," but in a less conversational manner. Though the use of "why" in academic writing is not grammatically incorrect, scholars should strive to incorporate the vernacular of research into their writing. Finding ways to elevate diction in each sentence of a document can ensure an academic tone and style consistency.


Cultivating writers...one tip at a time!


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