What this handout is about

This handout can help you revise your files for word-level clarity, get rid of wordiness and avoid clichés, discover the native that best express your ideas, and also choose words that suit an scholastic audience.

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Writing is a collection of choices. As you occupational on a paper, you choose your topic, your approach, your sources, and also your thesis; once it’s time to write, you have actually to select the words you will usage to express your ideas and decide exactly how you will arrange those words into sentences and paragraphs. Together you revise her draft, friend make more choices. You can ask yourself, “Is this yes, really what i mean?” or “Will readers recognize this?” or “Does this sound good?” Finding native that catch your meaning and convey that meaning to her readers is challenging. Once your instructors compose things choose “awkward,” “vague,” or “wordy” on your draft, they are letting you know that they want you to work on indigenous choice. This handout will describe some typical issues regarded word choice and provide you methods for picking the ideal words together you revise your drafts.

As girlfriend read additional into the handout, save in mind the it can sometimes take an ext time to “save” words from your original sentence 보다 to compose a brand new sentence come convey the same an interpretation or idea. Don’t be as well attached to what you’ve currently written; if you are willing to start a sentence fresh, you may be able to choose indigenous with better clarity.

For tips on making an ext substantial revisions, take a look at our handouts ~ above reorganizing drafts and revising drafts.

“Awkward,” “vague,” and also “ubraintv-jp.comlear” word choice

So: you create a document that renders perfect sense to you, yet it comes back with “awkward” scribbled throughout the margins. Why, friend wonder, room instructors so fond of terms favor “awkward”? most instructors use terms prefer this to draw your attention to sentences they had trouble understanding and also to encourage you come rewrite those sentences more clearly.

Difficulties with word an option aren’t the only cause of awkwardness, vagueness, or other troubles with clarity. Sometimes a sentence is difficult to follow due to the fact that there is a grammatical problem with that or because of the syntax (the method the words and also phrases are placed together). Here’s an example: “Having finished through studying, the pizza was quickly eaten.” This sentence isn’t tough to understand because of the words ns chose—everybody to know what studying, pizza, and also eating are. The problem here is the readers will normally assume that an initial bit that the sentence “(Having finished v studying”) goes through the following noun that adheres to it—which, in this case, is “the pizza”! that doesn’t do a lot of sense to indicate that the pizza to be studying. What ns was in reality trying to express to be something more like this: “Having finished through studying, the students easily ate the pizza.” If you have actually a sentence that has been marked “awkward,” “vague,” or “ubraintv-jp.comlear,” try to think about it native a reader’s allude of view—see if you have the right to tell where it alters direction or pipeline out important information.

Sometimes, though, problems with clarity are a matter of word choice. See if you recognize any type of of this issues:

Misused words—the native doesn’t actually mean what the writer thinks it does.Example: Cree Indians were a monotonous culture until French and also British inhabitants arrived.Revision: Cree Indians to be a homogenous culture.Words with unwanted connotations or meanings.Example: i sprayed the ants in their exclusive places.Revision: ns sprayed the ants in your hiding places.Using a pronoun once readers can’t tell whom/what that refers to.Example: my cousin Jake hugged my brothers Trey, even though the didn’t choose him very much.Revision: mine cousin Jake hugged my brothers Trey, even though Jake doesn’t prefer Trey very much.Jargon or technical terms that do readers job-related unnecessarily hard. Maybe you must use few of these words since they are necessary terms in your field, but don’t throw them in simply to “sound smart.”Example: The dialectical interface in between neo-Platonists and anti-disestablishment Catholics provides an algorithm for deontological thought.Revision: The dialogue in between neo-Platonists and particular Catholic thinkers is a version for deontological thought.Loaded language. occasionally we as writers recognize what we typical by a details word, but we haven’t ever before spelled that out for readers. We count too heavily on the word, probably repeating the often, without clarifying what we room talking about.Example: culture teaches young girls that beauty is their most important quality. In order to avoid eating disorders and other health problems, we must adjust society.Revision: modern American famous media, choose magazines and movies, teach young girls the beauty is your most necessary quality. In stimulate to protect against eating disorders and also other health and wellness problems, we must adjust the pictures and fubraintv-jp.comtion models girls are offered.


Sometimes the trouble isn’t choosing exactly the ideal word come express an idea—it’s gift “wordy,” or making use of words that your reader may regard as “extra” or inefficient. Take a look in ~ the adhering to list for part examples. Top top the left room some unit volume that usage three, four, or more words where fewer will certainly do; top top the best are some much shorter substitutes:

I came to the currently thatI establish that
She is the the opinion thatShe think that
Concerning the matter ofAbout
During the food ofDuring
In the occasion thatIf
In the process ofDuring, while
Regardless the the fact thatAlthough
Due to the fact thatBecause
In all casesAlways
At that allude in timeThen
Prior toBefore

Keep an eye the end for wordy constructions in your writing and also see if you have the right to replace them with an ext concise words or phrases.


In academic writing, it’s a good idea to border your use of clichés. Clichés room catchy little phrases so generally used the they have end up being trite, corny, or annoying. They room problematic since their overuse has reduced their impact and since they require several words where just one would do.

The main means to protect against clichés is first to acknowledge them and then to develop shorter, fresher equivalents. Ask you yourself if over there is one native that method the exact same thing together the cliché. If there isn’t, deserve to you use two or three words come state the idea your very own way? below you will watch five common clichés, with some choices to their right. Together a challenge, see just how many choices you can create for the final two examples.

Agree come disagreeDisagree
Dead as a doornailDead
Last yet not leastLast
Pushing the envelopeApproaching the limit
Up in the airUnknown/undecided

Try these yourself:

Play it by ear_____?_____
Let the cat the end of the bag_____?_____

Writing because that an academic audience

When you pick words to express her ideas, you need to think not only about what renders sense and also sounds ideal to you, yet what will certainly make sense and also sound best to your readers. Thinking about your audience and also their expectation will aid you do decisions about word choice.

Some writers think that academic audiences intend them come “sound smart” by using large or technological words. Yet the most crucial goal of academic writing is not to sound smart—it is to connect an debate or information clearly and convincingly. The is true that scholastic writing has actually a particular style that its own and also that you, as a student, are start to learn to read and write in that style. You may find yourself utilizing words and grammatical constructions the you didn’t usage in your high college writing. The hazard is the if friend consciously set out to “sound smart” and use native or frameworks that are very unfamiliar to you, you may develop sentences that your readers can’t understand.

When composing for your professors, think simplicity. Using straightforward words does not indicate basic thoughts. In an scholastic argument paper, what makes the thesis and argument advanced are the connections presented in simple, clear language.

Keep in mind, though, that an easy and clear doesn’t necessarily average casual. Most instructors will not be pleased if your document looks choose an immediate message or an e-mail to a friend. It’s usually finest to avoid slang and also colloquialisms. Take it a look in ~ this example and ask yourself just how a professor would more than likely respond to it if it were the thesis explain of a paper: “Moulin Rouge really bit since the to sing sucked and the costume colors were nasty, KWIM?”

Selecting and also using an essential terms

When writing academic papers, that is often beneficial to find an essential terms and use them within your file as well as in your thesis. This ar comments ~ above the an important difference in between repetition and also redundancy that terms and works through an example of using crucial terms in a thesis statement.

Repetition vs. Redundancy

These two phenomena space not necessarily the same. Repetition have the right to be a great thing. Sometimes we need to use our an essential terms number of times in ~ a paper, particularly in object sentences. Occasionally there is just no substitute because that the key terms, and selecting a weaker term together a synonym have the right to do an ext harm than good. Repeating an essential terms emphasizes essential points and signals to the reader that the dispute is still being supported. This sort of repetition can give your record cohesion and also is done by aware choice.

In contrast, if you ubraintv-jp.comover yourself frustrated, tiredly repeating the same nouns, verbs, or adjectives, or making the same suggest over and over, girlfriend are more than likely being redundant. In this case, you space swimming aimlessly around the very same points due to the fact that you have actually not made decision what your debate really is or since you space truly fatigued and also clarity escapes you. Describe the “Strategies” section below for concepts on revising because that redundancy.

Building clean thesis statements

Writing clean sentences is necessary throughout your writing. Because that the purposes of this handout, let’s focus on the thesis statement—one that the most necessary sentences in academic argument papers. Girlfriend can apply these concepts to other sentences in your papers.

A usual problem with writing an excellent thesis explanation is finding the native that ideal capture both the vital elements and also the definition of the essay’s argument. It is not constantly easy to condense numerous paragraphs or numerous pages right into concise key terms that, when combined in one sentence, have the right to effectively define the argument.

However, taking the moment to ubraintv-jp.comover the right words uses writers a significant edge. Concise and appropriate terms will assist both the writer and also the reader keep track the what the essay will certainly show and how it will display it. Graders, in particular, prefer to see plainly stated thesis statements. (For an ext on thesis statements in general, please describe our handout.)

Example: You’ve been assigned to write an essay the contrasts the river and shore scene in mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. You occupational on that for number of days, producing three versions of her thesis:

Version 1: there are numerous important river and shore scenes in Huckleberry Finn.

Version 2: The contrasting river and also shore scenes in Huckleberry Finn suggest a go back to nature.

Version 3: through its difference river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn argues that to ubraintv-jp.comover the true expression the American autonomous ideals, one have to leave “civilized” culture and go back to nature.

Let’s take into consideration the word selection issues in this statements. In variation 1, the word “important”—like “interesting”—is both overused and vague; it says that the writer has an opinion but gives very small indication around the structure of that opinion. Together a result, your reader knows only that you going to talk about river and also shore scenes, however not what you’re going to say. Variation 2 is one improvement: the native “return to nature” offer your reader a far better idea wherein the file is headed. On the various other hand, she quiet does not know just how this return to nature is an essential to your understanding of the novel.

Finally, girlfriend come up v Version 3, which is a stronger thesis due to the fact that it uses a sophisticated argument and also the key terms used to do this debate are clear. At the very least three an essential terms or ideas are evident: the contrast between river and shore scenes, a return to nature, and also American democratic ideals.

By itself, a crucial term is merely a topic—an facet of the argument but not the argument itself. The argument, then, becomes clean to the reader with the way in which friend combine vital terms.

Strategies for effective word choice

Be cautious when using words you space unfamiliar with. look at at exactly how they are used in context and also check their dictionary definitions.Be mindful when making use of the thesaurus. each word detailed as a synonym for the word you’re looking up may have its own unique connotations or shades that meaning. Usage a thesaurus to be sure the synonym you space considering really fits what you space trying to say.Don’t try to admire your leader or sound above authoritative. for example, which sentence is fingerprint to you: “a” or “b”?Under the present problems of ours society, marriage practices generally demonstrate a high level of homogeneity.In our culture, world tend come marry others who are like themselves. (Longman, p. 452)Before you review for accurate and strong adjectives, make certain you are an initial using specific and strong nouns and also verbs. because that example, if you to be revising the sentence “This is a good book that tells about the Revolutionary War,” think about whether “book” and also “tells” space as solid as they might be prior to you worry around “good.” (A stronger sentence could read “The novel defines the experience of a soldier throughout the Revolutionary War.” “Novel” tells united state what kind of publication it is, and also “describes” tells us an ext about exactly how the publication communicates information.)Try the slash/option technique, i beg your pardon is prefer brainstorming together you write. when you obtain stuck, create out 2 or an ext choices for a questionable native or a confound sentence, e.g., “questionable/inaccurate/vague/inappropriate.” Pick the word that best indicates your definition or integrate different state to to speak what you mean.Look for repetition. when you find it, decision if that is “good” repetition (using key terms the are an essential and advantageous to meaning) or “bad” repeat (redundancy or laziness in reusing words).Write her thesis in five different ways. make five various versions of her thesis sentence. Compose 5 sentences that express your argument. Try to come up through four alternatives to the thesis sentence you’ve currently written. ubraintv-jp.comover five feasible ways to interact your debate in one sentence to her reader. (We’ve simply used this technique—which of the last five sentences do you prefer?)Whenever we compose a sentence we make choices. Some are less evident than others, so that it can frequently feel choose we’ve written the sentence the only way we recognize how. By composing out five different versions of your thesis, friend can start to watch your variety of choices. The last version may be a combination of phrasings and also words native all five versions, or the one version that says it best. Through literally order out part possibilities because that yourself, you will have the ability to make better decisions.Read your paper out loud and also at… a… slow… pace. You can do this alone or with a friend, roommate, TA, etc. When read out loud, your composed words have to make feeling to both you and other listeners. If a sentence seems confusing, rewrite the to make the meaning clear.Instead of reading the record itself, put it down and also just talk through your dispute as concisely together you can. If your listener quickly and easily comprehends your essay’s main point and significance, you should then make sure that your written words room as clear together your oral presentation was. If, top top the various other hand, your listener keeps questioning for clarification, girlfriend will should work on finding the appropriate terms for her essay. If you perform this in exchange v a girlfriend or classmate, remainder assured that whether you room the talker or the listener, your articulation skills will develop.Have someone not familiar with the worry read the record and suggest out words or sentence he/she find confusing. execute not brush turn off this reader’s confusion by assuming the or she simply doesn’t understand enough about the topic. Instead, rewrite the sentences so that your “outsider” reader deserve to follow follow me at every times.

Questions come ask yourself

Am I sure what each word I usage really means? Am i positive, or need to I look that up?Have I ubraintv-jp.comovered the finest word or just worked out for the many obvious, or the easiest, one?Am ns trying too hard to impress my reader?What’s the easiest means to write this sentence? (Sometimes it helps to price this question by make the efforts it out loud. How would you to speak it to someone?)What room the vital terms of mine argument?Can I rundown out my argument using just these an essential terms? What others carry out I need? Which do I not need?Have I created my very own terms, or have actually I simply borrowed what looked like crucial ones from the assignment? If I’ve obtained the terms, have the right to I find much better ones in my very own vocabulary, the texts, mine notes, the dictionary, or the thesaurus to do myself clearer?Are my vital terms as well specific? (Do they cover the entire variety of mine argument?) can I think of specific examples native my resources that autumn under the an essential term?Are my vital terms too vague? (Do they cover much more than the selection of my argument?)

Works consulted

We consulted these fubraintv-jp.comtions while creating this handout. This is no a an extensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and also we encourage friend to do your own research come find additional publications. Please carry out not usage this list as a design for the layout of your own reference list, as it might not match the citation format you are using. For guidance top top formatting citations, please watch the ubraintv-jp.com Libraries quote tutorial. Us revise these advice periodically and also welcome feedback.

Anson, kris M., and also Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook because that Writers and Readers, sixth ed. Brand-new York: Longman.

Cook, Claire Kehrwald. 1985. Line by Line: exactly how to enhance Your very own Writing. Boston: house turn Mifflin.

Grossman, Ellie. 1997. The Grammatically correct Handbook: A Lively and Unorthodox evaluation of usual English for the Linguistically Challenged. New York: Hyperion.

Houghton Mifflin. 1996. The American Heritage book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative overview to contemporary English. Boston: house turn Mifflin.

O’Conner, Patricia. 2010. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s overview to much better English in level English, 3rd ed. New York: Penguin publishing Group.

Tarshis, Barry. 1998. How to Be your Own ideal Editor: The Toolkit because that Everyone who Writes. Brand-new York: 3 Rivers Press.

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Williams, Joseph, and also Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: lessons in Clarity and Grace, 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.

This occupational is licensed under a an innovative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.You might reproduce it because that non-commercial use if you use the whole handout and also attribute the source: The composing Center, college of north Carolina at Chapel Hill