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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Word Choice  

2011-08-19 10:13:02|  分类: Book 3: Central |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Effective Word Choice

(From Langan, John. College Writing Skills with Readings. Sixth Edition. McGraw-Hill, 2005. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2007. 544-50.)

Choose your words carefully when you write. Always take the time to think about your word choices rather than simply use the first word that comes to mind. You want to develop the habit of selecting words that are precise and appropriate for your purpose. One way you can show sensitivity to language is by avoiding slang, clichés, and pretentious words.

Slang

We often use slang expressions when we talk because they are so vivid and colorful. However, slang is usually out of place in formal writing. Here are some examples of slang:

      Someone ripped off Ken’s new Adidas running shoes from his locker.

      After the game, we stuffed our faces at the diner.

      I finally told my parents to get off my case.

      The movie really grossed me out.

Slang expressions have a number of drawbacks. They go out of date quickly, they become tiresome if used excessively in writing, and they may communicate clearly to some readers but not to others. Also, the use of slang can be an evasion of the specific details that are often needed to make one’s meaning clear in writing. For example, in “The movie really grossed me out,” the writer has not provided the specific details about the movie necessary for us to clearly understand the statement. Was it acting, special effects, or violent scenes that the writer found so disgusting? In general, then, you should avoid slang in your writing. If you are in doubt about whether an expression is slang, it may help to check a recently published hardbound dictionary.

Clichés

A cliché is an expression that has been worn out through constant use. Here are some typical clichés:

       it dawned on me

       sigh of relief

       too little, too late

       in the nick of time

       saw the light

       last but not least

       work like a dog

       it goes without saying

       at a loss for words

       easier said than done

       on top of the world

       time and time again

       make ends meet

Clichés are common in speech but make your writing seem tired and stale. Also, they are often an evasion of the specific details that you must work to provide in your writing. You should, then, avoid clichés and try to express your meaning in fresh, original ways.

Pretentious Words

Some people feel that they can improve their writing by using fancy, elevated words rather than simple, natural words. They use artificial, stilted language that more often obscures their meaning than communicates it clearly. Here are some unnatural-sounding sentences:

       It was a splendid opportunity to get some slumber.

       We relished the delicious repast.

       The officer apprehended the intoxicated operator of the vehicle.

       This establishment sells women’s apparel and children’s garments.

       The same thoughts can be expressed more clearly and effectively by using plain, natural language, as below:

       It was a good chance to get some sleep.

       We enjoyed the delicious meal.

       The officer arrested the drunken driver.

       This store sells women’s and children’s  clothes.

       Here are some other inflated words and simpler words that could replace them:

       Inflated Words          Simpler Words

       subsequent to          after

       finalize                      finish

       transmit                    send

       facilitate                    help

       component               part

       initiate                      begin

       delineate                  describe

       manifested               shown

       to endeavor              to try

 

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