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Should I avoid phrasal verbs in academic writing?

Should I avoid phrasal verbs in academic writing?

Posted by Grant Richardson, 5th September, 2015

In an earlier post, I wrote that for IELTS essays, one-word verbs are generally preferred over their phrasal verb equivalents because phrasal verbs normally sound less formal. While this is true, there is no hard rule for this.

Whether or not to use a particular phrasal verb depends on the phrasal verb. Some do not sound too informal, and might even be used instead of their one-word synonyms which sound too archaic even for academic writing. The ones to avoid would be those marked as INF in dictionaries.

An example of a phrasal verb I might use in an essay is deal with.

To me, its synonyms manage and handle don’t sound any more formal, and in fact, suggest a slighly different meaning in some cases. Deal with can give a more swift and decisive impression in solving a problem, whereas manage and handle do not.

In contrast, I would not use the synonym take care of (instead of deal with), as it does sound more informal.

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