Word Choice, Commonly Confused Words, & Spelling Brenham Writing Room Created by D. Herring Word Choice Problems • There are four common word choice problems: 1. 2. 3. 4. Vague and Abstract Words Wordy & Redundant Language Clichés Slang 1. 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. Vague 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. 2. 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. Wordy 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. 3. Clichés • Clichés 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. 4. Slang • Slang 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. Commonly Confused Words • Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and are spelled differently. – – – – – to, too, two there, their, they’re your vs. you’re its vs. it’s threw vs. through • See comprehensive list on pp. 54544 in Little, Brown Handbook. Strategies to Avoid Misused Words • Proofread carefully! – You can’t count on spell-check to catch these words. • Use a dictionary. – Look up the words you aren’t sure about; don’t guess! • Develop a personal list of words you often confuse! – Consult your list and doublecheck for these words before turning in any assignment. Spelling • Misspelled words are considered a serious error in writing. • Spelling errors leave a bad impression; you are and will continue to be judged by your spelling! • If you want to become a better speller, you must practice certain strategies. Strategies for Improving Spelling 1. Watch for certain words that are always spelled as one word. • cannot, nobody, anybody, everybody, somebody, somewhat, wherever, worthwhile, anything, everything. Strategies for Improving Spelling 2. Master your own “personal spelling demons.” – Create memory aids. – Break the word into parts or say the word phonetically. – Write the word correctly 10 times. – Take a spelling test. Strategies for Improving Spelling 3. Master commonly confused words. • If you can master these words, you can eliminate many of your spelling errors. • Use your handout as a tool. 4. Learn the six spelling rules! • Use the handout on the Writing Room website as a tool.