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6.13: Language Toolkit

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    About this toolkit

    This toolkit is a reference that you can use to check your work. 

    Strong verbs

    You want to use strong verbs. To check for weak verbs, look to see if you are using "be" and "do" plus a noun to do the work of a verb. Often, you can replace these with one strong verb.

    Here are some examples and revisions. The weak verbs and replacements are indicated in brackets.

    • The [planting was done] by the whole community.
    • The whole community [planted] the garden.
    • Next, they will [do a study] on the effect of the garden on the health of the community.
    • Next, they will [study] the garden’s effect on the community’s health.
    • We [have a strong belief] in food equity.
    • We [strongly believe] in food equity.

    Clear pronoun reference

    In your writing, watch for the pronouns: it, they, them this, that, these, those. Check to make sure it is clear what they refer to.

    Here are some examples and revisions. The unclear pronouns and replacements are indicated in brackets.

    • [It] says in the newspaper that the liquor store has been turned into a small grocery store.
    • [According to the article’s author], the liquor store has been turned into a small grocery store.
    • At the store, [they] used to only sell packaged foods; now it has fresh foods, too.
    • [The store] used to only sell packaged foods; now it has fresh foods, too.
    • Fresh foods are often more expensive and can take longer to prepare. [This] is a potential disadvantage.
    • Fresh foods are often more expensive and can take longer to prepare. [These factors] are potential disadvantages.

    Passive vs. active voice

    When you are using passive voice, make sure it is the best choice. In your writing, check for the object in the subject position and past participle form (to be + ed).

    Here are some examples and revisions. The changes are indicated in brackets.

    • My garden plot [was planted] yesterday.
    • [I planted] my garden plot yesterday.
    • The lettuce [was washed] thoroughly by her aunt.
    • [Her aunt washed] the lettuce thoroughly.
    • Organic food [has gotten] more attention in recent years.
    • [Consumers have given more attention to] organic food in recent years.

    Using a dictionary and thesaurus

    A dictionary or thesaurus can help you decide the most effective word(s) to use in your writing.

    Most dictionaries provide the following information:

    • Spelling. How the word and its different forms are spelled.
    • Pronunciation. How to say the word.
    • Part of speech. The function of the word.
    • Definition. The meaning of the word.
    • Synonyms. Words that have similar meanings.
    • Etymology. The history of the word.

    Like a dictionary, a thesaurus is another valuable writing tool.

    • A thesaurus gives you a list of synonyms, words that have the same (or very close to the same) meaning as another word.
    • It also lists antonyms, words with the opposite meaning of the word.
    • A thesaurus will help you when you are looking for the perfect word with just the right meaning to convey your ideas.
    • It will also help you learn more words and use the ones you already know more correctly.

    It is important to think about the connotations of the words you are using.

    • A connotation is the emotional or cultural meaning attached to a word.
    • The connotation of a word can be positive, negative, or neutral. 

    Using a dictionary or thesaurus can be difficult sometimes if you don’t know the connotations of a word because you risk using a word in the wrong way. If you aren't sure whether you are using a word with the right connotation, look up the word in sentences on the internet and see how it’s used in context. You can also ask your instructor or a tutor. 

    Coordination cheat sheet

    Table 6.13.1 explains the logic that each coordinating conjunction represents.

    Table 6.13.1: coordinating conjunctions

    Function or logic

    Coordinating conjunction




    Many Americans suffer from hunger, for food scarcity is a serious social issue in this country.



    People have begun paying more attention to the health benefits of organic foods, and it is no surprise that many grocery stores have expanded their organic sections.

    choice or alternative (negative)


    The neighborhood has never had a grocery store, nor has it had a community garden.



    Organic grocery stores seem to be everywhere, but it’s still hard for many people to access them.

    choice or alternative


    Some environmental experts have commented that California’s water supply can support its population, or it can support its agriculture -- but not both.



    California is suffering from a catastrophic drought, yet most of the nation’s produce is grown here.



    Public transportation can be unreliable, so if you buy a gallon of milk and take the bus, the milk may spoil by the time you get home.

    Transitions cheat sheet

    Table 6.13.2 explains the logic that each subordinating conjunction represents.

    Table 16.13.2: Transitions

    Function or logic




    also, furthermore, moreover, similarly, likewise

    Community gardens are places that allow people to provide food for themselves; moreover, this food is frequently more nutritious than what can be bought at grocery stores.


    instead, however, otherwise

    Research on Google Maps shows that there are at least ten corner liquor stores in West Oakland; however, there are no supermarkets like Whole Foods.


    namely, certainly, indeed

    It is important to draw attention to food inequity; indeed, many people are unaware that it exists at such high levels in the United States.

    Cause and Effect

    accordingly, as a result, consequently, hence, thus, therefore

    There are insufficient outlets for fresh food in their community; therefore, it’s hard for residents of West Oakland who live in food deserts to access healthy produce.


    finally, next, subsequently, then, after

    First, we are going to take a survery of the neighborhood’s needs; then, we can write a proposal.



    On Tuesdays Mandela Foods delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to corner stores in West Oakland; otherwise, people have to travel a great distance to buy produce.

    Choice or Alternative

    alternatively, on the other hand, conversely

    Community gardens are one solution to food deserts; on the other hand, it’s not always realistic that people will have the time and energy to grow food for themselves.

    Licenses and Attributions

    CC Licensed Content: Original

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

    Some examples of coordination and transition words adapted from "Accessibility and Affordability of Healthy Food Dependent Upon Socioeconomic Status", an essay by Amanda Wu. License: CC BY.

    CC Licensed Content: Previously published 

    "Using a Dictionary and Thesaurus" is adapted from 11.5: Word Choice 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.

    "Coordination Cheat Sheet" and "Transitions Cheat Sheet" are adapted from 11.7: "Coordination and Subordination​​​​" 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.

    This page titled 6.13: Language Toolkit is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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