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Word Choice

What word choice adds and activities

Susan Jacobsen

on 29 September 2015

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Transcript of Word Choice

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ~ Mark Twain
- the literal, dictionary definition
- the emotional baggage attached to words

I have reconsidered it; you have changed your mind; he has gone back on his word.

The difference between "vandalism" and a "harmless prank" depends upon whose child has committed it.

They try to change our minds by "propaganda," but we try to change their minds by "information."

The denotation of the words are the same, but what's implied, the connotation, is very different.
When writing, your word choices should be:

Accuracy - the definition is correct for the context
"In his valedictorian speech, Brad made illusions
to Hollywood stars." (allusions vs. illusions)

"Brad had won far lesser awards than his father."
(lesser = less significance; fewer = less in number)
Concrete - words inspire that images and bits of sensory experience
- Preferred over abstract or general terms
John exhibited emotional hostility.
John was angry.
John fumed.
The GIRL (child, toddler, daughter, princess, Alice) CRIED ( wailed, sobbed, whimpered).

HE (the boy, the student, Edgar) GOT (asked for, ordered, bought, demanded)
FOOD (Italian food, pizza, pepperoni pizza).
Revise the sentences so they are more concrete:
1) The man walked down the street.
2) An emotional condition was manifest in her appearance.
3) The building seemed imposing.
4) Jane put on her clothes and ate some food.
Appropriateness - Using correct diction for your
audience, genre, and circumstances
Compare the following versions of a story of a man who believes his brothers are trying to kill him.

1) The patient manifests the delusion that his siblings
are poisoning his food. [psychiatric case history]
2) Henry called in the private eye because he believed
his siblings were putting cyanide in his pasta. [fiction narration]
3) "I tell ya Doc, my siblings is out to get me." [speech of an illiterate character]
A figurative phrase that doesn't have a literal application

For example:
- I'm going to go
hit the books
even though Mike said the test was
a piece of cake.

Each language has idioms, and they must be learned by language learners as idioms rather than as their literal translations. This makes them very difficult to use and understand.
When writing, avoid....
OVERWRITING - padding content without adding meanint

"It's funny how certain things, the biggest moments and the smallest passing thoughts alike, how they can both become your sweetest memories later on. And, years later, when the places and the people who gave you these tender times are gone, their memories become star bright, highlight colors for the tapestry of your life."

...redundant, wordy, and unnecessary.
Excessive Variation -
thesaurus overused to where the text becomes awkward

"As Jim entered the turn, the motorcycle seemed to sink into the ground. He could feel the shocks being compressed as the force of the turn pushed him and his machine to a lower center of gravity. As he leaned into the turn, he stuck out his knee for balance. It was hard to remain in control, but Jim calmly, smoothly, lifted his head, twisted the vehicle upright, and pulled back with his right wrist. Instantly, the bike shot forward, its front wheel once again coming off the ground. Already entering the next turn, Jim shifted his weight forward and braked hard. Slowing to 100 miles per hour, he leaned the Kawasaki once more over to the left. Passing by the pits, he could see David and George keeping track of his time while Katie displayed it on the leader board for him to see. As the end of the first session, Jim pulled his trusty mount back into the pit."
Types of positive uses -

Metonymy - item used in place of something associated with it
Symbol - Image represents something other than itself
Metaphor - Something IS something else
Simile - Something is LIKE (or AS) something else
Personification - Something has human characteristics
Hyperbole - Extreme exaggeration
Latinate (or archaic) Diction -
outdated word choice that confuses rather than clarifies

For example:
"yore" "thee" "o'er" "finny prey" "alas" "ill tidings"
"The White House announced today..."
"Hired hands" instead of "workers"
"Kleenex" for all facial tissue
All the world's a stage, the men and women, merely players
Her eyes twinkled like stars
He was as fast as a cheetah
As cute as a kitten
Because of connotation vs. denotation, words often take on a positive or negative association
Arrange the lists of words from positive to negative:

1.Thin, slim, lanky, skinny, gaunt, slender
2. Aggressive, assertive, domineering, dynamic, pushy, forceful
3. Shrewd, bright, brilliant, cunning, smart, intelligent, brainy
My alarm clock sprang to life
The DVD flew off the shelves.
The mountains were calling my name
I had to wait for an eternity.
Mark was starving to death.
Color symbolism, imagery symbolism
Jargon -
words or expressions that are used by a particular group and are difficult for others to understand.

Types of jargon: medical, military, internet

For example: The LCMS uses the LSB and is moving towards the ESV instead of the NIV.
Full transcript