Word Choice


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Word Choice

  1. 1. Word Choice “ If language is incorrect, then what is said is not meant. If what is said is not meant, then what ought to be done remains undone.” -- Confucius
  2. 2. Why is word choice important? <ul><li>The English language contains over a half million words! </li></ul><ul><li>Word choice can make an enormous difference in the quality of your writing because if you substitute an incorrect or vague word for the right one, you risk being misunderstood. </li></ul><ul><li>You must transfer your thoughts onto paper using the proper words so that other clearly understand your ideas. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why is word choice important? <ul><li>An incorrect word can cause a sentence to make no sense (or make your reader chuckle): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unless I get to the bank soon, I will be forced to lead an immortal life. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dobermans make good pets if you train them with enough patients . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>He dreamed of eating desert . </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Avoid writing wordy sentences <ul><li>What is a wordy sentence? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A sentence is wordy if it can be tightened without loss of meaning. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><li>Eliminate and avoid redundancies. Redundancies are words that repeat the same idea or whose meanings overlap. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reverted back </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reflected back </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>New innovation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Red in color </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A true fact </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fell down </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Final outcome </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cooperate together </li></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><li>Avoid unnecessary repetition of words. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Our fifth patient , in room six, is a mentally </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ill patient . </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><li>Cut empty or inflated phrases (deadwood). </li></ul><ul><li>All unnecessary words, phrases, and clauses should be deleted (see next slide and pp. 138-139 in Hacker). </li></ul>
  8. 8. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><ul><li>due to the fact that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the reason is that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>as to whether or not to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>at this point in time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>concerning the matter of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>by means of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>on account of </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>regardless of the fact that </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>at the present time </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Use because </li></ul><ul><li>Delete </li></ul><ul><li>Delete “as to” and “or not” </li></ul><ul><li>Use now or today </li></ul><ul><li>Use about </li></ul><ul><li>Use by </li></ul><ul><li>Use because </li></ul><ul><li>Use although </li></ul><ul><li>Use now or currently </li></ul>
  9. 9. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><li>Simplify the structure. Look for opportunities to strengthen the verb. </li></ul><ul><li>Edward is responsible for monitoring and </li></ul><ul><li>balancing the budgets for travel and </li></ul><ul><li>personnel. </li></ul><ul><li>(Use monitors and balances) </li></ul>
  10. 10. How do we avoid writing wordy sentences? <ul><li>When possible, omit “There are,” “There is,” (There was and There were) and “It is” introductory phrases. They are often space wasters. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There are ten dental students on Full-Bite Scholarships attending this university. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It is imperative that all police officers follow strict procedures when apprehending. </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Avoid writing wordy sentences <ul><li>Active verbs express meaning more emphatically and vigorously than their weaker counterparts (forms of the verb be –be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been--or verbs in the passive voice). Forms of the verb be lack vigor because they convey no action. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A surge of power was responsible for the destruction of the coolant pumps. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A surge of power destroyed the coolant pumps. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Use active voice (instead of passive voice) <ul><li>When the subject performs the action, the verb is active ; when the subject is acted upon, the verb is passive . </li></ul><ul><li>Passive : The wedding date was announced by the young couple. </li></ul><ul><li>Active : The young couple announced their wedding date. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Use active voice (instead of passive voice) <ul><li>In addition being wordy and weak, passive sentences often disguise the performer of the action in question. </li></ul><ul><li>The fly ball was caught by Hernando. </li></ul><ul><li>Passive voice is appropriate if you wish to emphasize the receiver of the action or to minimize the importance of the actor). </li></ul><ul><li>Many native Hawaiians are forced to leave their </li></ul><ul><li>beautiful beaches to make room for hotels and </li></ul><ul><li>condominiums. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Use appropriate language <ul><li>Stay away from jargon. Jargon is specialized language used among members of a trade, profession, or group. Most readers aren’t familiar with jargon. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jargon : For years the indigenous body politic of South Africa attempted to negotiate legal enfranchisement without result. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revised : For years the indigenous people of South Africa negotiated in vain for the right to vote. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Avoid pretentious language <ul><li>Pretentiousness is pompous, inflated language. If you want your prose easily understood, write as clearly and plainly as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>The following is a copy of a government memo announcing a blackout order during World War II: </li></ul><ul><li>Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Avoid pretentious language <ul><li>President Franklin Roosevelt rewrote the order in plain English: </li></ul><ul><li>Tell them that in buildings where they have to keep the work going to put something across the windows. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Avoid slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English <ul><li>Slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English are informal and a private vocabulary that expresses the solidarity of a group (teenagers, rock musicians, football fans, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>Although slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English have a certain vitality, they are a code that not everyone understands, and they are very informal; therefore, slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English are inappropriate in most written work. Moreover, they frequently contain nontraditional grammar and diction. </li></ul>
  18. 18. To write effectively, avoid slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English <ul><li>Slang, regional expressions, and nonstandard English also become dated quickly, so try to write so your prose will be as fresh and pleasing ten years from now as it is today. </li></ul><ul><li>Slang : The party was way awesome. </li></ul><ul><li>Regional Expression : John was four blocks from the house before he remembered to cut the headlights on. </li></ul><ul><li>Nonstandard English : The counselor have so many problems in her own life that she don’t know how to advise anyone else. </li></ul>
  19. 19. To write effectively, choose an appropriate level of formality <ul><li>You should select words whose status is suited to your subject, purpose and audience. </li></ul><ul><li>In most college and professional assignments, some degree of formality is appropriate. No slang or nonstandard words are permissible. Grammar should be used correctly. Fragments should not be used, unless they’re used for special effect. Ask your instructor regarding the use of contractions. </li></ul>
  20. 20. To write effectively, avoid sexist language <ul><li>Sexist language is language that stereotypes or demeans men or women (usually women). Using nonsexist language is a matter or courtesy—of respect for and sensitivity to the feelings of others. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexist : If our new sports care were a lady, it would get its bottom pinched.” </li></ul>
  21. 21. Avoid sexist language <ul><li>Sexist language is sometimes the result of stereotypical thinking (i.e., all nurses are women; all teachers are women; all doctors are men, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid language that indicates you have stereotyped a person or a group of people. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexist : After a nursing student graduates, she must face a difficult state board examination. </li></ul><ul><li>Sexist : When a senior physician is harassed by his patients, he may be tempted to leave the profession. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Use exact language <ul><li>To avoid confusion in word choice, check your words for accuracy. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A dictionary and a thesaurus are strongly recommended ( www.dictionary.com or www.thesaurus.com ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” -- Mark Twain </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Select words with appropriate connotations <ul><li>Denotation refers to a word’s literal meaning, the meaning defined by the dictionary </li></ul><ul><li>Connotation refers to the emotional associations that surround the word’s meaning. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Home vs. residence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Old vs. antique </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Select words with appropriate connotations <ul><li>Select only words whose connotations fit your purpose, audience, and subject. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: The model was skinny and fashionable. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does skinny have a negative or positive connotation? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Example: As I covered the boats with marsh grass, the perspiration I had worked up evaporated in the wind. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is perspiration the best word? Would sweat be better? </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Use specific, concrete nouns <ul><li>Specific, concrete nouns express meaning more vividly than general or abstract nouns. General or abstract nouns can be dull and imprecise. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A career in city planning offers many things . [What things?] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When I have my car serviced, there is always trouble . [What kind?] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When I have problems , I always call my friends for advice. [What problems?] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I like to have fun while I’m on vacation. [What’s fun?] </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Do not misuse words <ul><li>Check the dictionary if a word is not in your active vocabulary, or you may find yourself misusing it. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The fans were migrating up the bleachers in search of good seats. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Internet has so diffused our culture that it touches all segments of society. </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Use accurate idioms <ul><li>In English, as in all languages, we have word groupings that seem governed by no particular logic except the ever-popular “that’s the way we say it” rule. </li></ul><ul><li>Most idiomatic expressions involve prepositions that are often confused or misused (See page 154 in Hacker for a list). </li></ul>
  28. 28. Avoid Clichés <ul><li>Make your word choices as fresh and original as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Clichés are lifeless and trite. </li></ul><ul><li>Clichés are often vague and imprecise. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Just how pretty is “pretty as a picture”? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Clichés are used so frequently that they rob your prose of style and personality and uniqueness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does “it was raining cats and dogs” really help your reader visualize the particular rainstorm you’re trying to describe? </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Use figurative language with care <ul><li>Figurative language produces pictures or images in a reader’s mind, often by comparing something unfamiliar to something familiar. </li></ul><ul><li>The two most common figurative devices are the simile and the metaphor . </li></ul>
  30. 30. Use figurative language with care <ul><li>Although figurative devices are useful, novice writers sometimes use them without thinking through the images they evoke: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Crossing Utah’s salt flats in his new convertible, my father flew under a full head of steam. [flew suggests airplane, but full head of steam suggests a train or steamboat] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our office had decided to put all controversial issues on a back burner in a holding pattern. [the writer is mixing stoves and airplanes] </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Use figurative language with care <ul><li>Think of figurative language as you might regard a fine cologne on the person sitting next to you in a crowded theater; just enough is engaging; too much is overpowering </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t overuse figurative language; not every point needs a metaphor or simile for clarity or emphasis. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Too many images are confusing. </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Works Consulted <ul><li>Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference . 6 th ed. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wyrick, Jean. Steps to Writing Well with Additional Readings .7 th ed. Boston: Thomson-Wadsworth, 2008. </li></ul>