When you’re faced with a pile of assignment sheets and a list of ever-nearing due dates, it’s often a temptation to try to use the biggest words possible in order to reach the page limit. At other times, you may try to use academic-sounding words to make a professor think you know what you’re talking about when you have not done enough research. But the truth, as strange as it may seem, is that having an academic tone is not the most important thing in college writing.

Your most important goal should always be clarity.

Consider the following two sentences.

Students who are enrolled in classes at the university level constantly strive to obtain a most valuable document.

College students work hard to earn a diploma.

The first sentence, although it may sound more poetic, uses a lot of excess words that can cause a reader to misunderstand the message. Often, when readers are confronted with a long phrase, they give up trying to decipher the meaning and instead focus on getting all the words read. It’s usually best to let a reader know what you want to say without making them weed through a lot of frustratingly long phrases.

The first sentence may also cause some confusion. What exactly is this “most valuable document”? While you do not want to underestimate your readers, be sure to clarify what you are referring to if something could potentially be interpreted more than one way.

When you’re wading through a pile of research papers and websites, trying desperately to complete a writing assignment, remember to focus on conveying your ideas clearly even if that means sacrificing academic language. Don’t hide your main points in a pile of flowery or confusing words. You have great ideas, so show them off.