2Word Choice Problems There are four common word choice problems: Vague and Abstract WordsWordy & Redundant LanguageClichésSlang
31. Vague and abstract words Vague and abstract words are too general. They don’t provide readers with a clear idea of your meaning.That was a good movie.I felt bad when I woke up.The dog is small.Sally won a lot of money at the casino.
4Vague and abstract words cont. Try to replace vague and abstract words with concrete words or specific words.A concrete word names something that can be seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled.The movie had many plot twists.I was running a fever when I woke up.A specific word names a particular individual or quality.The dog weighs only three pounds.Sally won five-thousand dollars at the casino.
52. Wordy and Redundant Language Wordy language results from using too many words to express your thoughts.Incorrect (I): I haven’t picked a major at this point in time.Correct (C): I haven’t picked a major yet.I: Due to the fact that I don’t feel well, I stayed home today.C: Because I don’t feel well, I stayed home today.
6Wordy and Redundant Language Redundant language occurs when you use words that say the same thing.I: He has reverted back to smoking.C: He has reverted to smoking.I: My two twins are celebrating their birthday.C: My twins are celebrating their birthday.
73. ClichésClichés are phrases used so often that people no longer pay attention to them.Writing an “A” paper is easier said than done.I’ll turn it in late, but it’s better late than never.Avoid using clichés in academic writing.
84. SlangSlang is informal and casual language often shared by a particular group.My mom chewed me out for coming home late.I used to not get along with my mom, but we’re cool now.I was bummed about my midterm grade.The use of slang is inappropriate in formal writing.
9I. Understanding Denotation and Connotation To communicate effectively as a writer, you need to understandConnotative or associative meanings of wordsDenotative or dictionary meanings Denotation is a word’s literal meaning. They tend to be neutral and objective. Connotation is a word’s associations along with its literal meaning. Connotations are subjective and personal, frequently involving feelings and suggesting concrete images.
10Comparing Denotation and Connotation Sample WordDenotationConnotation1) additivean added substancesomething unnatural, especially in food; perhaps harmful to health2) cheapInexpensiveOf products, low quality; of people, stingy
11II. Using Formal and Informal Language II.A.Formal Language represents the standard or level of discourse suitable for academic and business writing.The tone of formal language is usually serious without being pretentious. It is not especially intimate or personal.II.B. Informal language is more conversational; it establishes a closer relationship between writer and audience.In using informal language, you may address the reader personally as you. And you can refer to yourself as I, something you usually avoid in more formal writing.Informal language may include slang, colloquialisms, and regionalisms.II.C. The formality or informality of language is relative, a matter of degree. Much writing is neither exclusively formal nor completely informal. You should avoid extreme informality in your academic and professional writing, striving for a tone appropriate to your subject and audience.
12Go through the following passage choosing the more learned terms in each case; then the more commonplace. How do your choices change the writer's voice?A rare [problem/disorder] called [excessive overall hairiness/congenital generalized hypertrichosis] appears to be [linked/attributable] to a [throwback gene/avatistic mutation]. People [with/experiencing] this condition are [really hairy/remarkably hirsute], with [thick fur/impenetrable hisipity] everywhere except the palms of their hands and [bottoms/soles] of their feet. These [poor people/unfortunate individuals] may be [behind/responsible for] widespread legends concerning werewolves.
13Bleeding-heart liberals have caused Canada's debt problems. Decide whether the highlighted word or phrase in each of the following examples is appropriate for use in an academic essay.Bleeding-heart liberals have caused Canada's debt problems.The "sacred heart" is a common depiction of Jesus.The Internet has become very successful over the past two years.In 1812, General Brock was the hero of the day.The government will slash spending by three billion dollars.
14Sexism in Language Terminology: Sex: either of the two biological categories, i.e. female and male.Gender: a social or grammatical category, such as feminine or masculine.Sexism: stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on the basis of sex.Sexism is discrimination against people based on their sex rather than their individual merits.
15Sexism can refer to three subtly different beliefs or attitudes: The belief that one sex is superior to the other.The belief that men and women are very different and that this should be strongly reflected in society, language, the right to have sex, and the law.It can also refer to simple hatred of men (misandry) or women (misogyny). Language plays a part in sexism. An example is non-sexist language--the avoidance of gender-specific job titles, non-parallel usage, and other usage that is felt by some to be sexist. Opponents of such ideas often dismiss them as "political correctness gone mad."
16I.A. Gender Neutral Pronouns: As English has no gender-neutral pronoun in the singular (it can only be used of objects, not of people) writers are faced with a knotty problem when they want to speak of one person, but either don’t want to identify that person by sex, or don’t know what it is. This is a matter of increasing importance as writers and their readers are becoming more sensitive to the sexist implications of such language. Various solutions are possible:
17Exercise 1: 1) Use the male pronoun as the gender-neutral pronoun: E.g.: Your child should always be comforted when he cries.This is the traditional solution and the one still advocated in many style books. However, it is increasingly being seen as unacceptable.2) Use both pronouns together, such as he or she or he/sheE.g.: Ask the first shop assistant and find out whether he or she can tell you the price.Though this may be unexceptionable enough from the point of view of gender, it’s a messy and ungainly solution stylistically, and one has to be avoided.
183) Use another pronoun instead, in particular they/their E.g.: If that spectator keeps waving their arms about, someone is going to get hurt.Some people dislike seeing this in print, though it is increasingly common in speech and informal usage and is rapidly becoming a standard.4) Use the female pronoun instead. Writers do use “she/her” as a conscious alternative relatively frequently.E.g.: A careful student budgets her time.However, it is as open to the arguments about inherent sexism as continuing to use “he” for the generic form.
19Six Strategies for Solving Gender Exclusive Pronoun Problems Substitute a plural pronoun for the gender exclusive noun or pronoun.Original Sentence: Although a doctor is busy, he should always answer his patients’ questions. Problem: The use of "he" overlooks the fact that "a doctor" could be either male or female. Since there is no reference to any specific male doctor, the pronoun "he" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Substitute a plural pronoun for "he.“Revised Sentence: Although doctors are busy, they should always answer their patients' questions.
202) Delete the gender exclusive pronoun Original Sentence: A good lawyer uses his analytical ability. Problem: The use of "his" overlooks the fact that "a good lawyer" could be either male or female. Since there is no reference to any specific male lawyer, the pronoun "his" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Delete the gender exclusive pronoun. Revised Sentence: A good lawyer uses analytical ability.
213) Substitute a gender neutral first or second person pronoun for a third person gender exclusive pronoun.Original Sentence: A careful student budgets her time. Problem: The use of "her" overlooks the fact that "a careful student" could be either male or female. Since there is no reference to any specific female student, the pronoun "her" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Substitute a gender neutral first or second person word for "her." Revised Sentence: As a careful student, you should budget your time.
224) Revise the sentence to change its subject. Original Sentence: A good salesperson makes sure she keeps her customers happy.Problem: The use of the pronoun "she" overlooks the fact that a salesperson can be male or female. Since there is no reference to any specific female salesperson, the pronoun "she" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Revise the sentence to change its subject, thereby eliminating the gender exclusive pronoun. Revised Sentence: Keeping customers happy is an important part of a good salesperson.
23Use "he or she" (never s/he or he/she) sparingly. Original Sentence: A teacher's success depends on whether she communicates effectively. Problem: The use of the pronoun "she" overlooks the fact that "a teacher" could be either male or female. Since there is no reference to any specific teacher, the pronoun "she" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Revise the sentence to substitute "he or she" for the gender exclusive pronoun "she." Revised Sentence: A teacher's success depends on whether he or she communicates effectively.
246) Substitute an article for the masculine or feminine pronoun. Original Sentence: Every student should bring his text to class. Problem: The use of the pronoun "his" overlooks the existence of both male and female students. Since there is no reference to any specific male student, the pronoun "his" excludes one gender unnecessarily. Solution: Revise the sentence to substitute an article for "his." Revised Sentence: Every student should bring the text to class
25Revise the following sentences by changing sexist language to nonsexist language Man’s sense of space and distance is variable.Everyone establishes his own “personal space” by what he can do, not what he can see, in a given area.A mother is usually seen standing very close to her children.A lady politician, too, usually stands close to talk with one or two of her constituents but many feet away from large groups of people to whose she is talking.The size of a person’s ´bubble` of personal space varies with his culture or ethnicity.A German will go to great lengths to preserve his “private sphere” at home and at work.An Englishman, however, is used to a common work space at the office.For that reason, he is willing to exist close to his fellow workers.Some U.S. businessmen use the ladies who work in the office to help protect their personal bubbles.
26An individual’s sense of space and distance is variable. People establish their own “personal space” by what they can do, not what they can see, in a given area.Parents are usually seen standing very close to their children.Politicians, too, usually stand close to talk with one or two constituents but many feet away from large groups of people to whom they are talking.The size of a person’s ´bubble` of personal space varies with culture or ethnicity.Germans will go to great lengths to preserve their “private sphere” at home and at work.English people, however, are used to their common work space at the office.For that reason, they are willing to exist close to their fellow workers.Some U.S. business executives use other people who work in the office to help protect their personal bubbles.
27Gender Exclusive Language - Sample Paragraph: The following paragraph contains many examples of gender exclusive language. Read the paragraph carefully and rewrite it, changing the gender exclusive language to gender inclusive (or gender neutral) language.Gender Exclusive Language - Sample Paragraph:If an insurance man contacts a family after the unexpected death of the husband, one of the first questions he may hear is, "Where is his insurance policy?" The insurance man knows that when a father dies, the meaning of life insurance suddenly becomes crystal clear. No one, at that time, asks what a man's return is on his investment. The bottom line is that life insurance provides cash when a man and his family really need it. I tell the husband that the amount his loved ones receive depends on him. I also tell him that if he gives proper attention to this matter now, few financial problems will ensue after his death.
28Gender Inclusive Language - Revised Paragraph: In the following paragraph, the revisions appear in italics.If an insurance clerk contacts a family after the unexpected death of a spouse, one of the first questions he or she may hear is, "Where is the life insurance policy?" The clerk knows that when a parent dies, the meaning of life insurance becomes crystal clear.No one, at that time, asks what a person’s return is on his or her investment. The bottom line is that life insurance provides cash when caregivers and their families really need it. I tell the spouse that the amount his or her loved ones receive depends on him or her. I also tell the beneficiary that if he or she gives proper attention to this matter now, few financial problems will ensue after death.