Word Choice is Very Important O “Now admittedly, this football painting is not the Mona Lisa or one of the paintings on the ceiling of the Sixteenth Chapel.” –From a Student Essay O Unfortunately, many students do not read enough to have a good idea of how to use words either correctly or well. So, here are a few tips to help. You want your reader to see what you are writing about, but you have to create the images with words, not pictures.
Improper Word Choice Too formal: I shall go nobly hence from here to meet my fate at the magnificent grocery store. Unaware of Audience: Send this pestilent, traitorous, cow-hearted codpiece to the brig. Too slangy: What make you think you know what go down up in da hood anyway, playa? Wrong Connotations: Well, let's see: Who's on first, What's on second, and I Don't Know is on third. Confusing Wording: For sure, you have to be lost to find a place that can't be found, or else everyone would know where it was.
USE LANGUAGE THAT IS NATURAL AND NOT OVERDONE If you overdo the language or use language that just doesn't sound right, your reader will know you are "faking" it.
USE SLANG AND CLICHÉS SPARINGLY In fact, you should avoid them altogether if possible. It is better to use something original than something everyone has heard or even said before.
AVOID REPETITION Don't use the same word over and over. Use a thesaurus to find another way to say it. USE WORDS CORRECTLY If you aren't sure of a word, look it up. Use not only a thesaurus, but a dictionary. Just because a word is a synonym for another does not mean they are interchangeable, so double check it. BE CONCISE Use words that are as descriptive as possible. You'll get your meaning across better and use fewer words. The fewer words you use, the more likely you'll keep your reader's attention.
USE POWERFUL ACTION VERBS Write sentences that have the subjects doing something. Avoid linking verbs such as am, are, is, be, being, and been. Use verbs that create specific images in the reader's mind. If you do this, you will show rather than tell your reader what is happening, you will be able to describe without stopping the action, and you will give more information with fewer words. To ensure you are using active verbs, find the doer of the action and make it the subject of the sentence. Example: The car was hit by the tractor. Doer = tractor The tractor hit the car.
USE SPECIFIC, NOT GENERAL, NOUNS Be descriptive with nouns. Instead of saying, "the woman," give her name. Give the type of car. Instead of "football player," tell his position. Be as specific as you can. USE ADJECTIVES THAT ARE AS DESCRIPTIVE AS POSSIBLE Big, huge, and gigantic all mean the same thing, but gigantic is a better choice if you are describing a tyrannosaurus. "SHOW" RATHER THAN "TELL" Replace linking verbs with action verbs to "show" rather than "tell" your reader what you mean. Common linking verbs: amisarewaswerebebeingbeen
CREATE A MENTAL PICTURE WITH WORDS FOR THE READER Choose your words carefully. Look for the best word or phrase to describe what you are writing about. Similes and metaphors are good ways to describe something so your reader can picture it. Example: They were out of control, running all over the place. Simile: They had no more direction than a splattered egg. Example: The candle in the window helped us find our way home in the dark. Metaphor: The candle was a beacon in the night.
a little bit a lot actually all always area as far as...concerned aspect at least awesome big boring certainly incidentally interesting involved with just kind of little lots nice obviously of course particularly phrase predicament pretty problem somehow something like somewhat sort of specially stuff surely that... thing too totally tremendously very which... whole Try to avoid the following words and phrases whenever possible:
Proper Word choice O Appropriate Language: In lower-level papers, try to stick with words that you would normally use in conversation, except for technical or subject- specific terms. O Thesaurus: Use the thesaurus sparingly: make sure you know what each word means. O Appropriate Word and Usage: Look up unfamiliar terms in the dictionary. O What Sounds Good: Read more, so you know what sounds natural and what doesn’t. O Connotations: Make sure you understand the connotations of the words you use.
Proper Word Choice Continued Awkward or Vague: Check your writing for clarity and concrete explanations. Go from Simple to Complex: If something sounds confusing or strange, think about how you can make the nouns or verbs more specific or clear—then work on the adjectives and adverbs. Read Out Loud: Read each sentence in your paper aloud. Does every word sound correct? Simplify: Try to be simple and clear—don’t try to impress your audience with fancy terms that may be unnecessary or confusing.
Poor Word Choice O A towel has mammoth psychological cost. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) ascertains that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will mechanically assume that he is also in custody of a toothbrush…soap, tin of biscuits…compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc. Furthermore, the strag will then gleefully lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other substances that the hitchhiker might fortuitously have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and wideness of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still is acquainted with where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with. O –From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Good Word Choice O A towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush…soap, tin of biscuits…compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with. O –From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy