Word Choice in Essays – excellent!

April 2, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Writing Academic Essays | Leave a comment

from the University of Western Ontario  http://www.sdc.uwo.ca/


Word Choice:  Tips for ESL Students 


The types of language listed below will help you to determine what types of 

words and phrases you can use in a formal essay.  


Clichés:  Phrases or sentences that have lost meaning through overuse. 


 Examples: Don’t count your chickens before they have hatched. 

                     Let sleeping dogs lie. 


These phrases can add colour and life to informal speech; however, in 

writing, they appear to be substitutes for clear thought.  


Colloquial Language:  Casual conversational language that has a wider  

    general acceptance than slang. 


 Examples: Let’s do lunch. 

                     I’m going to get back at him. 


Colloquial language is generally acceptable in casual spoken English, but 

it is unacceptable in formal speaking situations, and in written English. 


Euphemisms:  Expressions that soften or obscure the meaning that you wish  

    to convey. 


 Examples: a guest of the government  (in jail)    

                     pre-owned           (used) 

                     passed away       (died) 

                     tactical omission   (lie) 


Euphemisms are good if they spare someone’s feelings, but they are bad 

if they obscure meaning, or give a positive connotation to something 

illegal, immoral, or otherwise unacceptable. 


Formal Language:  Language of scholarly and technical writing that is  

    characterized by: precise language, complex sentences, and no contractions. 


Formal Language is used in oral presentations and public addresses, 

essays, reports, resumes, and business letters. 


Informal Language:  The language of peer group discussion, newspaper  

    editorials, and certain magazines such as Time or Newsweek.   


 Examples: I                    writing in first person 

                   can’t              using contractions 

                   Why not?      using sentence fragments.  


Jargon:  Technical words or phrases that are used in connection with a  

    particular trade or profession.  


 Examples: downsizing 

                     bottom line    


Jargon is good to use within the context in which it was developed, but it 

becomes difficult to decipher when used outside of its particular context. 

Be careful to define technical terms when you are addressing an audience 

outside of your technical specialty. 


Non-standard Language:  Incorrect language.  


 Examples: anyways 

                     could of 


                     youse guys 


Never use non-standard language in your writing, unless you are quoting 

someone who has used it. You should also avoid non-standard language 

in conversation. 


Redundancy:  Often called “wordiness”, this means using several words when  

    one or two will do. 


 Examples: In my opinion, I think … 

                     completely new 

                     dead body 


Never use redundancies in your written work. They often irritate the 

reader, and they sometimes make the intended meaning obscure. 


Slang:  Informal language that is specific to a particular group and time period. 


 Examples: groovy 




Use slang only in casual conversations with your peers. 



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