Word Choice in Academic Writing: Tips to Avoid Common Problems

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  Dec 30, 2016   Enago Academy
  : Academic Writing, Language & Grammar
Word Choice

As an author, choosing the right words while writing a manuscript is crucial for success. Academic writing, like most other forms of writing, is a series of choices. When it’s time to write, you have to carefully choose words that can clearly express the idea and then decide how you will rearrange those words into phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs.

Some of the most common problems concerning word choice usage include the following:

Misused Words

Example: There were averse effects.

Revision: There were adverse effects.

Reason for change: “Averse” means to be disinclined towards something, whereas “adverse” means detrimental.

Words with Unwanted Connotations or Meanings

Example: I sprayed the ants in their personal places.

Revision: I sprayed the ants in their hiding places.

Reason for change: The first sentence has a double meaning. The second sentence conveys the intended meaning and is completely clear.

Complex Words Where a Shorter, Simpler Term Would Do

Example: “Conventional wisdom” is a relatively new designation.

Revision: “Conventional wisdom” is a relatively new term.

Reason for change: The first sentence uses a complex word, whereas in the second sentence, it is substituted by a simple word with a clear meaning.

Awkward Word Choices

Example: Child students’ consciousness for marine education still remains an open research problem for creating a suitable teaching plan.

Revision: Consciousness among young students for marine education still remains an open research problem for creating a suitable teaching plan.

Reason for change: The italicized phrase in the first sentence does not read well and lacks clarity to a certain extent, whereas the second is certainly clearer.

Words that are Similar to Each Other, But Convey the Wrong Meaning

Example: When discussing the definition of tuberculosis, we should address that physicians are required to quickly identify patients with risks of infection with pathogens.

Revision: When discussing the definition of tuberculosis, we should address that physicians are required to promptly identify patients with risks of infection with pathogens.

Reason for change: The word “quickly” means “rapidly, with speed,” whereas “promptly” means “both soon and quickly,” so the latter is the right word choice in this sentence.

Words that Convey Finer Shades of Meaning

Example: Previously, a substantial number of patients with HCAP were defined as having community-acquired pneumonia.

Revision: Previously, a substantial number of patients with HCAP were diagnosed as having community-acquired pneumonia.

Reason for change: The first sentence uses a word that conveys a meaning that is not as accurate as the word in the second sentence (also, from a content perspective, “diagnosed” is the accurate technical term here).

Moving on, word choice in academic writing also involves using words that are shorter and more concise than their lengthier counterparts, even though they mean the same. The table given below lists some such words.

Longer phrase

The concise word

I came to the realization that

I realize that

Concerning the matter of

About

During the course of

During
In the event that

If

In the process of

During, While
Regardless of the fact that

Although

Due to the fact that

Because
In all cases

Always

At that point in time

Then

Prior to

Before

Keeping in mind

Considering

The following are also some tips to ensure that you always choose the right words when writing a manuscript:

 

word-choice

 

So, now you know that when you choose words to express your ideas, you not only have to think about what makes sense and sound the best to you but also what will make sense and sound the best to your audience. Thinking about the reader and their expectations will also help you make better decisions.

Do follow these tips and choose the right words when writing your manuscript. Here’s to flawless academic writing!

 

References:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Word Choice. Retrieved from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/word-choice/

Ben Mudrak. Editing Tip: Word Choice Suggestions. Retrieved from http://www.aje.com/en/arc/editing-tip-word-choice-suggestions/

Statistics Solutions. 5 Literal Word Choices to Improve Your Writing. Retrieved from http://www.statisticssolutions.com/5-literal-word-choices-to-improve-your-writing/

 

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