Word Choice in Academic Writing: Tips to Avoid Common Problems
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:
Example 1: There were averse effects.
Revision 1: There were adverse effects.
Reason for change: “Averse” means to be disinclined towards something, whereas “adverse” means detrimental.
Example 2: The journal excepted your article for publication.
Revision 2: The journal accepted your article for publication.
Reason for change: “Except” means to exclude something, whereas “accept” is the consent to receive something.
Words with Unwanted Connotations or Meanings
Example 1: I sprayed the ants in their personal places.
Revision 1: 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.
Example 2: I want to do something different in my presentation.
Revision 2: I want to do something unique in my presentation.
Reason for change: “Different” mean something other than the regular activities, whereas “unique” implies something completely unusual and unrelated to the regularly presentation practices.
Complex Words Where a Shorter, Simpler Term Would Do
Example 1: “Conventional wisdom” is a relatively new designation.
Revision 1: “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.
Example 2: It was difficult to comprehend.
Revision 2: It was difficult to understand.
Reason for change: The word “comprehend” is substituted by “understand” without changing the meaning of the statement.
Awkward Word Choices
Example 1: Child students’ consciousness for marine education still remains an open research problem for creating a suitable teaching plan.
Revision 1: 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.
Example 2: I came to the realization that the answer is incorrect.
Revision 2: I realized that the answer is incorrect.
Reason for change: Sentence revised to avoid wordiness and provide direct information.
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.
The concise word
I came to the realization that
|I realize that|
Concerning the matter of
During the course of
|In the event that||
In the process of
|Regardless of the fact that||
Due to the fact that
|In all cases||
At that point in time
|Keeping in mind||
The following are also some tips to ensure that you always choose the right words when writing a manuscript:
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!
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Word Choice. Retrieved from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/word-choice/
Word Usage in Scientific Writing. Retrieved from http://www.chem.ucla.edu/dept/Faculty/merchant/pdf/Word_Usage_Scientific_Writing.pdf
Statistics Solutions. 5 Literal Word Choices to Improve Your Writing. Retrieved from http://www.statisticssolutions.com/5-literal-word-choices-to-improve-your-writing/