1.3 Word Choice
But in proposals, reports, and memos, you do not want any reader to be unsure of the meaning of a word or an acronym. Instead, you might say, the machinery we saw on the tour of the manufacturing facility was the latest computer controlled technology and highly efficient. Take the time to edit your writing and remove excess wordiness and padding, and change colloquialisms and acronyms to more commonly used terms.
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In lesson three of this module, I’ll talk about word choice. There are so many ways to make a point, or describe an event or express an opinion. Your choice of words will affect the reader’s ability to understand your meaning. Feel that you understand their position and to see you as an intelligent professional. I will talk about colloquialisms and non standard language. Use of contractions and some common misused or inappropriately used words. I’ll also address the use of industry specific jargon and acronyms as well as the importance of high impact words. In order to be clear, straightforward, and easily understood, you will need to be very careful with your word choices. First, avoid nonstandard vocabulary and colloquialisms. Colloquialisms tend to be regionally based and therefore might not be familiar to a reader from a different part of the country or a different country. Some of these examples are English colloquialisms which many Americans would find quite confusing. Just as some of the American colloquialisms would be confusing to an English reader. Also, use of colloquialisms tends to make the tone of document a bit too familiar, a bit too casual or even unprofessional. You want to be friendly, but sound professional. Take particular care about colloquialisms that are just common language in certain area such as saying could of or coulda instead of could have. Or a whole nother issue instead of a whole other issue or another issue. Colloquialisms also exist as phrases. One that I hear quite frequently which I think should be brought up is the use of the word at, at the end of a sentence. Sentences should not be ended with the word at. When it is done, the word is unnecessary, but it’s typically used to reinforce the meaning. For example, where are the car keys at? Should be, where are the car keys? What about contractions? Are they also inappropriate? Actually, no. If you would use them when you are speaking professionally, then then use them in your writing. It is also quite common to choose the wrong word of two that sound similar, but have very different meanings. Words such as allude and elude. Complimentary versus complementary, advice versus advise, or infer or imply. Take a moment and review the information and activity on this website. It has a great review of commonly confused words in English. It is wise to avoid acronyms. They do serve a purpose. But in proposals, reports, and memos, you do not want any reader to be unsure of the meaning of a word or an acronym. While an acronym might be quite familiar to you, you just don’t know if it will be familiar to all potential readers. I mentioned in an earlier lecture that jargon is best not used in business documents. In this case, when I refer to jargon, I’m referring to words and phrases that are unique to the company or the industry. You just don’t want to take any chances that a reader won’t be familiar with a term. For example, if you have a Ryobi 3302M 2-color offset press that is used in your production facility, and the employees typically refer to it as the 3302, you’ll need to be more clear about what you are referring to when you write about the machine. You might refer to it as the Ryobi offset press machine. Or if it’s the only press machine, say simply, the in house press machine. If you must use jargon, explain it. For example, in molecular biology laboratories, a DNA sequencing instrument is a very common, and typically, referred to as a sequencer. If you’re writing for a broad audience though, you would need to explain what a sequencer is within the document, either in a separate paragraph or in a glossary. As you’re choosing your words, choose words that are strong and impactful but retain the true meaning of what you want to say. Doing so doesn’t limit your ability to write simply. In fact, the use of hig-impact words allows for a more straightforward sentence structure. Avoid simplistic modifiers such as like kind of, very, and awesome, and use instead a high-impact word. For example, the machinery we saw on the tour of the manufacturing facility was really amazing. Instead, you might say, the machinery we saw on the tour of the manufacturing facility was the latest computer controlled technology and highly efficient. Please note that sometimes use of more impactful words does add words to the sentence. This is because clarity trumps brevity. While we strive to be to the point and straightforward, sometimes we need to add words for clarity. We will discuss editing extensively in module four, but I wanted to point out that changing words to high impact words is an important component of the editing process. Now, a few general suggestions about word choice. First, don’t use multiple words when you can use one. And stick to idiomatic English. Don’t drop articles, such as the, and, this, or cut out the word that. Remove words that aren’t performing a real function. Here are some suggestions. Delete prepositions that aren’t necessary. Change every ion word to a verb. Replace is, as, are, was and were with stronger verbs. Change was hanging to hung. Is indicative of to indicates. Eliminate padding. It might be observe that, could be, you can see. I’ve pointed out some common word choice or misuse errors in this unit. The only way to really avoid such errors, is to review the resources I have provided in the lecture. And the resources list provided with this module. Some errors are so common or have been made by so many for so long that we don’t even recognize them as errors. Take the time to edit your writing and remove excess wordiness and padding, and change colloquialisms and acronyms to more commonly used terms. Also, be sure to use words that convey the exact meaning that you intend and avoid less impactful words that are modified with weak adverbs such as very, really and kind of.
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