Language is one of the world's most untapped and neglected resources. It is an ever giving gift that we, as a society, have largely ignored for simplicity's sake. Of course, it is always important to let the situation you're in dictate your diction, by no means should you overcomplicate your message for the sake of inserting a $5 word you once heard a professor utter, but you shouldn't allow your vocabulary to stagnate either. Now, I'm not saying you should seek out archaic words that are contextually outdated. I recommend that you look into finding better alternatives for words that you commonly use.
Sprucing up your vocabulary in this way will help you retain the meanings of these words and help guide you in your search of new words.
Instead of: "many," "a lot," and/or "several" use:
Plethora, Myriad, Innumerable
Instead of: "big," "tall," and/or "huge" use:
Towering (usually to describe a person's height), Vast (usually in regard to the size of an area).
(Truthfully, when writing an academic essay it's better to give an exact or approximate height/size to the reader.)
Instead of: "small," "tiny," and/or "little" use:
Instead of: "calm," "peaceful," and/or "expressionless" use:
Stoic (suggests an ability to withstand great pain or misfortune), Placid
Instead of: "rude," "unkind," and/or "disrespectful" use:
Irreverent, Belittling, Disparaging
Instead of: "amazing," "wonderful," and/or "cool" use:
Astonishing, Spectacular, Phenomenal
(These recommended words aren't anything special, [ironic, huh?] but the words they're to replace are simply overused.)
Instead of: "kind," "easy-going," and/or "friendly" use:
Charismatic, Gregarious, Personable, Affable
Instead of: "interesting" use:
Dynamic, Complex, Enthralling, Enraptured
Instead of: "important" use:
Notable, Paramount, Vital, Venerable (technically means deeply respected)
15 Bonus Words for Creative Writers: Instead of: "said" use:
Exclaimed, Chortled, Croaked, Bellowed, Murmured, Sobbed, Declared, Corrected, Elaborated, Snapped, Barked, Enlightened, Breathed, Predicted, Beamed.
(These all hold a specific expression behind them, which, does mean you'll have to google the meaning if you're unfamiliar with the word, but it truly does take your writing to the next level and helps make your character(s) feel more life-like.)
Professors, especially English professors, love seeing you correctly use words like these. They elevate your writing, make you sound more knowledgeable, and can single-handedly help you illustrate your message.