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6.11: Choosing Effective Words

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    What is word choice?

    In the previous section, we talked about word choice as it relates to clarity. You can also think about word choice as it relates to your writing style. For example, swapping out “to be” verbs (e.g., is, was, were, etc.) with more action-packed verbs has an immediate, positive impact on style. Also, if you haven’t already, look for vague words such as “things,” “very,” or “many,” which you can replace with more precise terminology. If you find yourself repeating the same word or phrase too much, look for alternatives in a thesaurus. The row houses next to the community garden in figure 6.11.1 could have been a flat, monotonous view, but the bright colors of some of them enliven the scene. Effective word choices can have a similar effect on your writing.

    A row of houses with a community garden in the foreground
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "Glenwood Green Acres, Philadelphia" by Tony Fischer Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Evaluating word choice

    Let's look at the student essay in terms of word choice for style:

    Try this!

    Read the fifth paragraph of Amanda’s essay.

    • Can you identify areas where her word choice is especially effective?
    • Can you make any suggestions for improvement?

                Food hubs supply fresh vegetables and fruits to low-income communities which increases access to healthy foods for residents of West Oakland. Residents can obtain fresh and healthy food through food hubs at Mandela Marketplace. Another resource that helps residents to access healthy food is learning how to grow vegetables and fruits in community gardens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Establishing a community garden where participants share in the maintenance and products of the garden and organizing local farmers markets are two efforts that community members themselves can do” (“Food Desert” para 4). Community gardens provide places that allow people to plant food for themselves. One famous community garden is known as City Slicker Farms.

    Adapted from "Accessibility and Affordability of Healthy Food Dependent Upon Socioeconomic Status" by Amanda Wu

    Revising for word choice

    Now let's apply this to your own writing:

    Apply this!

    Take a piece of writing you are working on and read it over.

    • Can you identify any instances of vague wording?
    • What about “weak” verbs?

    If so, experiment with revising your word choice to make your writing style more dynamic.

    Licenses and Attributions

    CC Licensed Content: Original

    Authored by Clara Hodges Zimmerman, Porterville College. License: CC BY NC.

    CC Licensed Content: Previously published

    "What is word choice?" is adapted from 7.4 "Revision Stage 3: Sentences, Words, Format" in Athena Kashyap and Erika Dyquisto's text Writing, Reading, and College Success: A First-Year Composition Course for All Learners. License: CC BY SA.

    Sample paragraphs on food deserts are adapted from "Accessibility and Affordability of Healthy Food Dependent Upon Socioeconomic Status" by Amanda Wu.

    This page titled 6.11: Choosing Effective Words is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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