Word choice means the judicious of words considering various factors, including meaning, specificity, level, tone, and general audience. The insightful selection of words can make a mediocre writer a better one or transform a dull subject into engaging. The selection of words is paramount for composition, especially content writing. Picking exact words will enable you to expand the effect on your readers.
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” Proper Words in Proper Places make the true definition of style.” -Jonathan Swift
A sentence should I not only be faultless in its idiom and grammar but must at the same time express the meaning intended clearly and exactly. We might as well make a few general observations on the right selection of words.
The literary composition is admittedly a fine art and efficiency in this art as in any other, depends upon a knowledge of the rules and principles peculiar to it followed assiduously in practice as also an imitation of a good model. In other words, good reading, knowledge of grammar, idioms and vocabulary, and constant and careful exercise in writing are essential. For the written article is three-fold art comprising
- clear, consistent and orderly thinking
- the right expression; and
- Correct orthography
In the first place, the writer must be clear and definite as to what he has to say and arrange his thoughts logically and methodically before he begins to write. Secondly, the language used must be adequate and correct. It must be a faithful rendering of his thoughts and faultless from the point of view of grammar and usage. Thirdly the writing must be free from errors of spelling, punctuation etc., and should be uniform and legible.
A right selection of words is thus an integral part of the composition from the standpoint of both the writer and the reader. It is the duty of the former to make himself clearly, accurately and easily intelligible. To this end, he must find the words that exactly and completely express his thought or feeling. On the other hand, the reader is not always anxious to inquire whether the writing is an adequate or faithful expression of what falls in the writer’s mind. All that he expects and cares about is that “what is placed before him to read is in itself complete, appropriate and clear. These are the minimum qualities which will include him to read any piece of composition. The liberties of the writer are, therefore, restricted to this extent- must be clear and he must be interesting”(Classen).
1. Prefer simple and familiar words or phrase to difficult or uncommon one, provided the sense is practically the same:
The Choice of words
- very important, NOT critical
- to show great zeal NOT evince or exhibit great enthusiasm
- sent a carriage NOT conveyance
- but NOT be it that it may be
- shut the door NOT closed
- am free in the morning, not forenoon
- he was set for NOT summoned
- a brave soldier NOT valiant
- I have nothing to say NOT remark or mention
- buy the book NOT purchase
- he wants some medicine NOT physic
- don’t hide NOT conceal
- finish this page NOT complete
- our test begins on 10th NOT commences
- his pay is very low NOT his emoluments
- he suffered a heavy loss
- If NOT on the off chance
- also NOT additionally
- the fire was put out NOT the conflagration was extinguished
- it was a positive lie NOT veritable
- we had lunch at two NOT luncheon
- there was no room for me NOT accommodation
- a sad event NOT happening
- the results will be given out NOT announced
- the trouble was made worse NOT aggravated
- what has brought about this state of affairs? NOT what is the raison d’etre of
2. Avoid Roundabout Ways of Expression. Be brief and direct:
- I got or received prize NOT was the recipient of
- The doctor was sent for or called NOT the services of a physician were called into requisition.
- He is senior in service NOT as far as his service is concerned
- Since he is senior NOT in view of the fact that he is senior etc.
- There is no news NOT not a complete dearth of
- This is false NOT not in my favour
- Kindly grant me leave NOT leave in my favour
- Kindly note his arrival NOT note the time when he arrived
- My brother, the doctor NOT my brother who is a doctor
- I want to know who left early NOT I want to be told the names of all those that left the place before the time was over
- Arif and Ali like each other NOT Arif like Ali and Ali like Arif.
3. Be Sure of The Exact Meaning Of Word
- You must be sure about the exact meaning of a word or phrase before you use it.
- He advised ( not persuaded) me to stay but I left.
- I worked hard (not tried) but failed in the test.
- I like this cool breeze(not cold) after the heat of the day.
- I never expected( not hoped) that he would fail.
- His look frightened me( not horrified).
- You have no reason to suspect him(no doubt).
4.Conformity To The Required Meaning
When there are two or more words having apparently the same signification, make sure which of them conforms to the idiom or give the required meaning:
- His position has improved so much, etc.(not well).
- I must impress this fact on your mind (not emphasis).
- The situation is too bad for us to ignore( not bad enough, etc.).
- All the requests have been collected( assembled).
- The man said, “It is a great hour you have done me, etc.”( not spoke or told).
- You talk like a fool(not say).
- He turned his eyes in another direction( not glance).
- The proposal is worthy of being seriously considered( not worth).
- It is not worth the trouble( not worthy of trouble).
- Try to look cheerful( not happy).
- He was moved to pity at the site( not sympathy).
- Who started the trouble( not began).
- The removal of these grievances will relieve the situation (not pacify; but will pacify the strikers).
- He refused to see you and denied having seen you already.
5. Use Short Words or Phrases
- Other things being equal, a short word, phrase, or a sentence is generally better than a long one:
- He came late and left early( not he arrived late and departed early)
- They are often to blame( not frequently).
- I want your help( not assistance).
- It is absurd to think so( not preposterous to have such an opinion).
- The greater part of our students are weak in English( not proportion).
- This is an interesting story( not intriguing).
6. Avoid Use of Slang, Colloquial, Redundant, and Archaic Words
In serious composition avoid words or phrases that are merely colloquial, slang, archaic or restricted to poetry:
He will be here before long( not here); the closing of our college( not closure); a wonderful tale( not wondrous); all books except one(not save); do you know anything( not aught) about it? It is true(not be); to that he did not reply(not there too); throw it away (not cast); I should like to go( not love); he knew very little about it( not precious).
7. Good Readability
Finally, a sentence should read well; that is, it should be balanced and rhythmical. As far as possible, avoid repetition of words or sounds( jingles), and let not a sentence rise gradually and fall abruptly or end with a weak and empty word. Here are some examples to understand this.
- I saw him after I had seen everybody else( not after…else I saw him).BUT After everybody else, I saw him in the evening.
- The staff is not sufficient, or if it is sufficient, it is not efficient( not rather than – the staff is not sufficient, or if it is sufficient, it is not sufficiently efficient).
- He lived practically alone( not practically exclusively, etc.).
- This may have been due to excessive power placed in the hands( not due to undue power).