The A - Z of alternative words

Calling all writers

This guide gives hundreds of plain English alternatives to the pompous words and phrases that litter official writing. On its own the guide won’t teach you how to write in plain English. There’s more to it than just replacing ‘hard’ words with ‘easy’ words, and many of these alternatives won’t work in every situation. But it will help if you want to get rid of words like ‘notwithstanding’, ‘expeditiously’ and phrases like ‘in the majority of instances’ and ‘ at this moment in time’. And using everyday words is an important first step towards clearer writing.

Using the A to Z

If you find yourself about to write, type or dictate a word you wouldn’t use in every day conversation, look it up in the A to Z. You should find a simpler alternative. Often there will be a choice of several words. You need to pick the one that best fits what you are trying to say.

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z

(Use the alphabetical links to jump to that letter.)

A  
(an) absence of no, none
abundance enough, plenty, a lot (or say how many)
accede to allow, agree to
accelerate speed up
accentuate stress
accommodation where you live, home
accompanying with
accomplish do, finish
according to our records our records show
accordingly in line with this, so
acknowledge thank you for
acquaint yourself with find out about, read
acquiesce agree
acquire buy, get
additional extra, more
adjacent next to
adjustment change, alteration
admissible allowed, acceptable
advantageous useful, helpful
advise tell, say (unless you are giving advice)
affix add, write, fasten, stick on, fix to
afford an opportunity let, allow
afforded given
aforesaid this, earlier in this document
aggregate total
aligned lined up, in line
alleviate ease, reduce
allocate divide, share, give
along the lines of like, as in
alternative (a) choice, (the) other
alternatively or, on the other hand
ameliorate improve, help
amendment change
anticipate expect
apparent clear, plain, obvious, seeming
applicant (the) you
application use
appreciable large, great
apprise inform, tell
appropriate proper, right, suitable
appropriate to suitable for
approximately about, roughly
as a consequence of because
as of the date of from
as regards about, on the subject of
ascertain find out
assemble build, gather, put together
assistance help
at an early date soon (or say when)
at its discretion can, may (or edit out)
at the moment now (or edit out)
at the present time now (or edit out)
attempt try
attend come to, go to, be at
attributable to due to, because of
authorise allow, let
authority right, power, may (as in 'have the authority to')
axiomatic obvious, goes without saying
B  
belated late
beneficial helpful, useful
bestow give, award
breach break
by means of by
C  
calculate work out, decide
cease finish, stop, end
circumvent get round, avoid, skirt, circle
clarification explanation, help
combine mix
combined together
commence start, begin
communicate talk, write, telephone (be specific)
competent able, can
compile make, collect
complete fill in, finish
completion end
comply with keep to, meet
component part
comprises is made up of, includes
(it is) compulsory (you) must
conceal hide
concerning about, on
conclusion end
concur agree
condition rule
consequently so
considerable great, important
constitutes makes up, forms, is
construe interpret
consult talk to, meet, ask
consumption amount used
contemplate think about
contrary to against, despite
correct put right
correspond write
costs the sum of costs
counter against
courteous polite
cumulative added up, added together
currently now (or edit out)
customary usual, normal
D  
deduct take off, take away
deem to be treat as
defer put off, delay
deficiency lack of
delete cross out
demonstrate show, prove
denote show
depict show
designate point out, show, name
desire wish, want
despatch or dispatch send, post
despite the fact that though, although
determine decide, work out, set, end
detrimental harmful, damaging
difficulties problems
diminish lessen, reduce
disburse pay, pay out
discharge carry out
disclose tell, show
disconnect cut off, unplug
discontinue stop, end
discrete separate
discuss talk about
disseminate spread
documentation papers, documents
domiciled in living in
dominant main
due to the fact that because, as
duration time, life
during which time while
dwelling home
E  
economical cheap, good value
eligible allowed, qualified
elucidate explain, make clear
emphasise stress
empower allow, let
enable allow
enclosed inside, with
(please find) enclosed I enclose
encounter meet
endeavour try
enquire ask
enquiry question
ensure make sure
entitlement right
envisage expect, imagine
equivalent equal, the same
erroneous wrong
establish show, find out, set up
evaluate test, check
evince show, prove
ex officio because of his or her position
exceptionally only when, in this case
excessive too many, too much
exclude leave out
excluding apart from, except
exclusively only
exempt from free from
expedite hurry, speed up
expeditiously as soon as possible, quickly
expenditure spending
expire run out
extant current, in force
extremity limit
F  
fabricate make, make up
facilitate help, make possible
factor reason
failure to if you do not
finalise end, finish
following after
for the duration of during, while
for the purpose of to, for
for the reason that because
formulate plan, devise
forthwith now, at once
forward send
frequently often
furnish give
further to after, following
furthermore then, also, and
G  
generate produce, give, make
give consideration to consider, think about
grant give
H  
henceforth from now on, from today
hereby now, by this (or edit out)
herein here (or edit out)
hereinafter after this (or edit out)
hereof of this
hereto to this
heretofore until now, previously
hereunder below
herewith with this (or edit out)
hitherto until now
hold in abeyance wait, postpone
hope and trust hope, trust (but not both)
I  
if and when if, when (but not both)
illustrate show, explain
immediately at once, now
implement carry out, do
imply suggest, hint at
in a number of cases some (or say how many)
in accordance with as under, in line with, because of
in addition (to) and, as well as, also
in advance before
in case of if
in conjunction with and, with
in connection with for, about
in consequence because, as a result
in excess of more than
in lieu of instead of
in order that so that
in receipt of get, have, receive
in relation to about
in respect of about, for
in the absence of without
in the course of while, during
in the event of/that if
in the majority of instances most, mostly
in the near future soon
in the neighbourhood of about, around
in view of the fact that as, because
inappropriate wrong, unsuitable
inception start, beginning
incorporating which includes
incur have to pay, owe
indicate show, suggest
inform tell
initially at first
initiate begin, start
insert put in
instances cases
intend to will
intimate say, hint
irrespective of despite, even if
is of the opinion thinks
issue give, send
it is known that I/we know that
J  
jeopardise risk, threaten
L  
(a) large number of many, most (or say how many)
locality place, area
locate find, put
M  
magnitude size
(it is) mandatory (you) must
manner way
manufacture make
marginal small, slight
material relevant
materialise happen, occur
may in the future may, might, could
merchandise goods
mislay lose
modification change
moreover and, also, as well
N  
negligible very small
nevertheless but, however, even so
notify tell, let us (or you) know
notwithstanding even if, despite, still, yet
numerous many (or say how many)
O  
objective aim, goal
(it is) obligatory (you) must
obtain get, receive
occasioned by caused by, because of
on behalf of for
on numerous occasions often
on request if you ask
on the grounds that because
on the occasion that when, if
operate work, run
optimum best, ideal
option choice
ordinarily normally, usually
otherwise or
outstanding unpaid
owing to because of
P  
partially partly
participate join in, take part
particulars details, facts
per annum a year
perform do
permissible allowed
permit let, allow
personnel people, staff
persons people, anyone
peruse read, read carefully, look at
place put
possess have, own
possessions belongings
practically almost, nearly
predominant main
prescribe set, fix
preserve keep, protect
previous earlier, before, last
principal main
prior to before
proceed go ahead
procure get, obtain, arrange
profusion of plenty, too many (or say how many)
prohibit ban, stop
projected estimated
prolonged long
promptly quickly, at once
promulgate advertise, announce
proportion part
provide give
provided that if, as long as
provisions rules, terms
proximity closeness, nearness
purchase buy
pursuant to under, because of, in line with
R  
reconsider think again about, look again at
reduce cut
reduction cut
referred to as called
refers to talks about, mentions
(have) regard to take into account
regarding about, on
regulation rule
reimburse repay, pay back
reiterate repeat, restate
relating to about
remain stay
remainder the rest, what is left
remittance payment
remuneration pay, wages, salary
render make, give, send
report tell
represents shows, stands for, is
request ask, question
require need, want, force
requirements needs, rules
reside live
residence home, where you live
restriction limit
retain keep
review look at (again)
revised new, changed
S  
said/such/same the, this, that
scrutinise read (look at) carefully
select choose
settle pay
similarly also, in the same way
solely only
specified given, written, set
state say, tell us, write down
statutory legal, by law
subject to depending on, under, keeping to
submit send, give
subsequent to/upon after
subsequently later
substantial large, great, a lot of
substantially more or less
sufficient enough
supplement go with, add to
supplementary extra, more
supply give, sell, deliver
T  
(the) tenant you
terminate stop, end
that being the case if so
the question as to whether whether
thereafter then, afterwards
thereby by that, because of that
therein in that, there
thereof of that
thereto to that
thus so, therefore
to date so far, up to now
to the extent that if, when
transfer change, move
transmit send
U  
ultimately in the end, finally
unavailability lack of
undernoted the following
undersigned I, we
undertake agree, promise, do
uniform same, similar
unilateral one-sided, one-way
unoccupied empty
until such time until
utilisation use
utilise use
V  
variation change
virtually almost (or edit out)
visualise see, predict
W  
ways and means ways
we have pleasure in we are glad to
whatsoever whatever, what, any
whensoever when
whereas but
whether or not whether
with a view to to, so that
with effect from from
with reference to about
with regard to about, for
with respect to about, for
with the minimum of delay quickly (or say when)
Y  
you are requested please
your attention is drawn to please see, please note
Z  
zone area, region

Copyright

Plain English Campaign owns the copyright on this guide. You must not copy it without getting our permission first. You can download your own copy from our website (www.plainenglish.co.uk)

Copyright © 2014 Plain English Campaign. All Rights Reserved.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information