Essay Rules | Word Choice

Word Choices for Essays

Essay Word Choice

“Why are you using that thesaurus?” asks Lance.

“I need bigger words, so that everyone will see how smart I am,” replies Dawn.

“You are so pretentious,” says Lance.

“Is that a criticism or a compliment?” asks Dawn.

Definition and Examples

Precision (exactness) of meaning, the tone of the writing, and the audience should guide your selection of word choices in an essay. Using a word which doesn’t match what you mean to say or how you want to say it creates confusion for your readers.

Example: The comprehensive solution regarding cake and ice cream for the class party failed to address many of the students’ concerns.

Comprehensive means “thorough and complete” and suggests that nothing else is needed. A solution which failed to “address many of the students’ concerns” would not be comprehensive, so the word choice is imprecise. Also, the word choices, comprehensive, address, and concerns are formal and serious and don’t match the tone of the rest of the sentence with words such as “cake and ice cream” and “class party” and the audience of students preparing for a class party.

Read the rule.

If a simple word means exactly what you want to say and it fits the tone of your writing and your audience, use it. If a technical term or unfamiliar word must be used, define it or build writing context so that it is easily understood.

Practice

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the poor word choices.

  1. She planned to enhance her drawing in the coloring book with a few stickers.
  2. Frances exaggerated how badly she did on the math quiz.
  3. The author suggested adding a mysterious villain and a clown to the children’s cartoon.
  4. The cafeteria lunch included a burrito, fruit, and milk. The fruit was a tragic choice.
  5. The witness statements, DNA, police report, and the defendant’s opinion were convincing.

Revise the poor word choices. Use a dictionary if necessary.

Avoid big words when more utilitarian words would suffice.

Answers

  1. She planned to [enhance] her drawing in the coloring book with a few stickers.
  2. Frances [exaggerated] how badly she did on the math quiz.
  3. The author suggested adding a [mysterious villain] and a clown to the children’s cartoon.
  4. The cafeteria lunch included a burrito, fruit, and milk. The fruit was a [tragic] choice.
  5. The witness statements, DNA, police report, and the defendant’s [opinion] were convincing.

Pennington Publishing's Teaching Essay Strategies

Teaching Essay Strategies

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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