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Once in an undergraduate course on English academic writing, I wrote something like "This is in no way representative of ..." in an assignment, and the teacher marked it down for being non-academic.

I asked the teacher if the problem with the sentence was that it sounded hyperbolic or something and he reiterated that the problem was simply that the construction is not suited for academic writing.

To my knowledge "in no way" is equivalent to "not in any way" and is perfectly acceptable in formal, including academic, writing, unlike the simple "no way", as in "No way I'd do that," which, again to my knowledge, is informal.

Was the teacher wrong? Or am I? This has bugged me for some time.

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    "In no way" is perfectly acceptable in any context. Jun 15, 2020 at 18:20
  • @choster Yeah, I asked him to clarify the problem and he specifically said that "in no way" was non-academic. Question edited.
    – Nardog
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:23
  • As always, it is impossible to judge acceptability when insufficient context is given. I can't imagine any context in which 'in no way' is subtly inappropriate, unless as @GEdgar says hyperbole is considered inappropriate. The trouble is that we don't know if the tutor was wrong in considering the statement not suitable for academic writing per se (most likely, but further education departments usually have style guides explaining such requirements), or wrong in your example for some specific reason with the tutor then being wrong in their explanation. Jun 15, 2020 at 18:56
  • @EdwinAshworth That's certainly plausible, sure.
    – Nardog
    Jun 15, 2020 at 20:46

3 Answers 3

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"No way" has a long tradition of formality that is recognised as being distinct from current "street talk".

The skull shows good development and is in no way artificially deformed from Skeletal Remains Suggesting Or Attributed to Early Man in North America. By Aleš Hrdlička (1907)

That was in no way connected with your duty as prosecuting attorney? Answer. No, sir; not in any way whatever. from United States Congressional serial set, Issue 1489 (1872)

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  • Good research unearthing the Aleš Hrdlička quote. Jun 15, 2020 at 18:55
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If GK Chesterton can do it, you can do it.

Yet at the time of Dickens's birth and childhood this weakness in their worldly destiny was in no way apparent; especially it was not apparent to the little Charles himself. He was born and grew up in a paradise of small prosperity. He fell into the family, so to speak, during one of its comfortable periods, and he never in those early days thought of himself as anything but as a comfortable middle-class child, the son of a comfortable middle-class man.

Charles Dickens GK Chesterton (1906)

Google Books edition

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  • Yep. If GK Chesterton can do it, you can do it. :-) Jun 15, 2020 at 20:38
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Well, "This is in no way representative of ..." probably should merely be "This is not representative of ... " If so, then "in no way" is useless here. For emphasis you could say "This is certainly not representative of ... "

Unless there are multiple different possible ways in which "it" could be "representative of ...", then do not say "in no way".

Perhaps "in no way" could be OK as part of something larger. "In many ways ...., but in no way ...".

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    But isn't "in no way" an emphatic way of saying "not", just as "certainly not" is? It sounds like you're talking about what is stylistically effective, but my question is about whether the construction is acceptable in formal writing at all.
    – Nardog
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:29
  • Probably academic writing should merely state the facts, and not add editorial emphasis.
    – GEdgar
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:35
  • My question isn't about what it should or should not. I specifically asked the teacher if that was the problem and he said it wasn't.
    – Nardog
    Jun 15, 2020 at 18:39

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