I'm currently writing a academic paper draft (in computer vision, if it helps), and I'd like to know if "weed out", in the sense of "eliminate", or "remove" is considered informal ?

Edit: adding an example

To avoid unnecessary processing, we try to weed out these poor quality images as soon as possible.

  • There isn't enough context to answer the question. However you have your answer already. If worried about "weed out" use "eliminate" or "remove".
    – James K
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:38
  • But my question is whether or not I should worry about it!
    – Lescurel
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:54

3 Answers 3


Not really. It is not an informal word but for example in court documents you would not use it.

In most academic circles it would be fine but I would not be surprised if a reviewer suggests you replace it.


The words "weed out" form a metaphor.

A metaphor is an imaginative way of describing something by referring to something else which is the same in a particular way. - Collins Cobuild Dictionary.

In the context you describe it seems an entirely appropriate metaphor because the process you describe of elimination unsatisfactory images is directly comparable to eliminating unsatisfactory plants from your garden.

There is no general rule that metaphors may not be used in formal writing. On the contrary, they are used all the time. 'Formal' does not mean 'dull'.

There are all sorts of ways in which metaphors can be misused, and many of these expose the writer to ridicule: "The Prime Minister is leading the people over the precipice with his head in the sand". So care is needed when you use a metaphor, but this case is fine.


I was going to answer YES, but none of the online dictionaries say it is informal, so maybe I am being old-fashioned.

1 Remove unwanted plants from (an area of ground)

‘I was weeding a flower bed’

2 weed someone/something out
Remove an inferior or unwanted component of a group or collection.

‘we must raise the level of research and weed out the poorest work’

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