One way to elevate your writing is through diction, or word choice. Effective word choice in writing can grab the reader’s attention, clarify meaning, paint a picture, and so much more. While writing essays, there are a few important things to watch for in terms of word choice. Here are 6 ways you can help elevate your words through diction in writing.
1. Watch Out for Words that Sound the Same
Homonyms are words that sound the same but have very different meanings. Some examples include:
Imagine what your reader would think if you wrote, “While on my camping trip, I saw a bare.” Rather than feeling shocked and nervous at the thought of you coming face-to-face with a grizzly bear, your readers are now wondering, “A bare what?” They’re thinking you came across another shocking sight.
As you watch out for homonyms, be careful. The word is technically spelled correctly, so spell check won’t discover the mistake. However, the change could impact the reader’s understanding of your work or leave them wondering if you know the difference between these words.
2. Aim for Active Voice Over Passive Voice
Part of choosing the right words comes down to the sentence structure. The way you format a sentence can determine whether your writing has an active or passive voice. You want to aim for active voice, which strengthens your writing.
To determine whether your sentence is active or passive, ask yourself if the subject of the sentence is doing the action or being acted upon. Active voice has the subject doing the action. Check out this example:
Passive Voice: The African savannah is where lions live.
Active Voice: Lions live in the African savannah.
Do you notice how rearranging the sentence can impact the sentence? Which sentence do you think would be more effective? Although passive voice is effective sometimes, active voice helps the reader understand the sentence more clearly.
3. Be Wary of Synonyms
Have you ever tried to improve your diction in writing by using synonyms? Sure, you can probably find a better word, or maybe the synonym will clarify the meaning of your sentence or provide variety to your writing. But, do you really know what the synonym you chose means? Are you sure that you’re using it correctly? Does the synonym change the meaning of your writing?
Before you use Word to find and replace your words with synonyms, make sure that you know what that word means in the context of your sentence.
4. Clarify Pronouns
“My sister, Emily, shared a cookie with our cousin, Kristi, even though her mother told her not to.” Whose mother are we talking about? Did Kristi’s mom or Emily’s mom tell her not to share the cookie? When using pronouns, ask yourself if the reader will be able to understand who it refers to in the sentence. If it’s difficult to decipher, you may need to rework the sentence. For the above sentence, you could say, “My sister, Emily, shared a cookie with our cousin, Kristi, even though Kristi’s mother told her not to.”
5. Limit Overly Technical Terms
There are times when it’s important to use technical terms. And then there are times when the technical terms just make it difficult for the reader to understand what you’re saying. Think about who your audience is and their level of understanding of the topic. Do you expect your audience to know technical jargon? If not, it’s probably a good idea to simplify your writing with words that your reader will be sure to understand.
6. Reduce the Use of Fluff
We’ve all been there. You need to write a 500-word essay, but you’re stuck at 300 words. So, you add a whole lot of filler and fluff. Doing this will help you meet your word count requirement, but it can weaken your essay. Effective word choice in writing means really thinking about each word that you use. It involves cutting out fluff and only using words that add to the meaning of your writing. Less is best. Otherwise, the fluff can start to detract from the meaning and quality of your work.
Effective Word Choice in Writing: Conclusions
Effective word choice in writing isn’t easy to achieve. It takes practice and thought. As you write your next essay, slow down and think about the words that you’re selecting. Make sure that they help elevate your work and strengthen your writing.