Word usage, or diction, refers to the use of words with meanings and forms that are appropriate for the context and structure of a sentence. A common error in word usage occurs when a word’s meaning does not fit the context of the sentence. Incorrect: Susie likes chips better then candy. Correct: Susie likes chips better than candy. Incorrect: The cat licked it’s coat. Correct: The cat licked its coat. Commonly misused words include than/then, it’s/its, there/their/they’re, your/you’re, except/accept, and affect/effect.
Hey there. Welcome to this video on word usage.
Word usage is important when writing or speaking because word usage is what helps us to clearly articulate points with meanings and forms that are appropriate for the context and structure of a sentence. Understanding words and how to use them will greatly improve your ability to be an effective writer.
Here are three things to consider when deciding what words to use in your writing:
Does this word actually make sense in the context? Who is your audience? Are you being clear?
Choosing words that makes sense. You must know what the word you are trying to use actually means.
For example: The fish galloped through the water.
The word gallop is a poor word choice. The fish may have been going fast, but the word gallop is reserved for the quickest speed of a four legged animal and mainly just refers to a horse. A more appropriate word to use might be “the fish swam through the water;” or if you really want your audience to be able to better envision the speed of the fish you might say “the fish darted through the water,” or perhaps add an adjective like “quickly” in front of “swam”. “The fish quickly swam through the water.” There are several words out there you can use that would be appropriate, but there are also several wrong ones, so be sure to choose words that make sense in the context.
Another way we can use words that don’t make sense, is by misusing words that sound the same, but, depending on spelling, have different meanings. For example their, there, and they’re all sound the exact same but mean different things.
Their (T-H-E-I-R) shows possession of something and is generally always followed by a noun. “We went to their home for dinner.” “Their” insinuates ownership of the home. I wouldn’t use “their” when talking about the proximity of someone. “She’s over their.” The correct word is “she is over there.” (There, their, and they’re) can be used in several different ways. It can be used as an adverb, a pronoun that introduces a noun, an adjective, or a noun referring to a place. The word “they’re” is a contraction for ‘they are,’ and, generally is followed by a verb as in “they’re coming with us.”
Knowing your audience. Understanding who your audience is is very important as a writer. For instance, if you are writing to second graders vs. writing to the President of The United States, those two letters will be very different. At least they should be. When writing to second graders, you want to stay away from more complex words that they don’t yet understand, and when writing to the President, you want to write in a manner that is professional and respectful. Age difference and authority aren’t the only distinctions to make about your audience, cultural differences may also apply. Sometimes words or phrases can have different connotations depending on the culture.
Connotation refers to the societal undertones, Cultural implications, or emotions tied to certain words or phrases.
Let’s look at some examples:
“In this city, forty nine percent of people are mooching off of the government.”
In this sentence, the word “mooching” has a negative connotation, suggesting that the people are selfishly taking advantage of the government.
“In this city, forty nine percent of people are on welfare.”
In this sentence, you have simply stated an objective fact making the connotation neutral.
“In this city, forty nine percent of people are in need of financial assistance.”
In this sentence the word “need” suggests that the people have done all they can, and it is still not enough, making the connotation positive.
Each of these sentences suggest very different things, because of the word use. So be careful, and considerate in the way that you write. You’re writing may suggest something that you did not intend for it to, so give thought to how words might be perceived by your audience when writing.
Writing with clarity. When you write with clarity, this makes your writing easy to follow, and easy to understand. If you just try to embellish your writing by throwing really big words in places to try and show mastery, then you risk confusing your audience. Clarity is always the answer. Clarity is mastery. If you can write in a way that is clear, simple, and effective, then you have succeeded.
Here is what I’m talking about.
‘Our core competencies include, but are not limited to ideating holistic and innovative business plans that, in effect, will invoke a world class paradigm shift.’
. . .This is too much, or should I say ‘this is extraordinarily beyond what is desired.’
It is not a bad thing, and can be useful to use larger words, but when it is overdone your writing can become ineffective, confusing, and it can lose the attention of your audience.
We can rewrite the sentence, to make it clear, direct, and effective without all the jargon.
“We specialize in developing, and improving business plans to help you see growth.”
I’ve made it short, direct, and I’ve said all the same things in fewer words.
The more you write, the more comfortable, and confident you will be in your ability to choose appropriate wording.
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See you next time!
Provided by: Mometrix Test Preparation
Last updated: 12/29/2017
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