Common word choice errors

Common Word Choice Errors
Common Word Choice Errors
and How to Avoid Them
With the completion of chapter five, you have been introduced to the complete basic structure of Modern English, from parts of speech to clauses. In this second part of the book, starting with this chapter, we begin at the lowest level of English grammar--parts of speech--and proceed up the hierarchy with each chapter, discussing common errors on each level and how to avoid them.
Thus, in this chapter, we discuss common word choice errors and how to avoid them.
Of all the problems in formal writing, word choice is probably the hardest to correct--for the reason that one's choice of word improves only with reading and study of diction through the use of a dictionary. There are, however, a few extremely common specific errors that we can make you aware of. Study these, master them, and then work on building vocabulary and studying a good dictionary.
There is no substitute for concentrated and extended work on vocabulary development. There are several good books on the subject. Buy one, borrow one, or steal one; and then wear it out!
The general areas of this paper are the following:
 Avoiding the Wrong Word
 Avoiding Vagueness


Avoiding the Wrong Word
The words avoiding and wrong, as they are used in the remainder of this book, might offend some sensitive souls, who might ask "Why 'Avoiding the Wrong Word?' Why not 'Using the Right Word?'" The simple answer to this question is that there are many right words one might use in any writing situation, but usually inexperienced writers will choose the same wrong word over and over. Thus, any of the following sentences is perfectly acceptable:
1.We will accept him in the club.
2.We will welcome him into the club.
3.The club will embrace him in membership.
4.The club will enthusiastically celebrate his new membership.
However, the following sentence, containing a very common word-choice error, is unacceptable:
5.We will except him in the club.
If you do not understand the error in (5), pick up your good dictionary and look up the words accept and except.
Choosing the wrong word in a sentence sometimes results in what is called a malapropism: an unintentionally humorous misuse of a word, as in the use of except for accept. The sentence "I resemble that remark" rather than "I resent that remark" contains a good "intentional" malapropism, intentional in that it is frequently used for humorous effect.
The sentence "Jack Kavorkian is committing euphemism" when what is meant is "Jack Kavorkian is committing euthanasia" contains a good unintentional malapropism, as does "The Dean is diabolically opposed to our plans" when what is meant is "The Dean is diametrically opposed to our plans."
Choice of the wrong word is most frequently simply embarrassing for the writer, as in the common confusion of affect and effect. Just as you would not jump out of an airplane without a parachute, you should not write without a dictionary. You will use the dictionary every time you write if you write well. If you hunt down someone you know who writes well, you will invariably find a well-used dictionary, usually more than one, on that person's writing desk.

Vagueness
Vagueness in formal writing results from the failure to be specific in word choice. Some of the most common verb phrases used in order to avoid specificity are "deals with," "relates to," and "involved how." Consider the following example:
1.Positive face deals with a person's personality needs. It relates to a person's personality needs to be well liked and respected. Negative face deals with a person's material needs such as time, money, and things of that nature.
Positive face does not "deal with" or "relate to" a person's personality needs. Positive face specifically is the human need to be well liked and respected by others. Negative face does not "deal with" material needs. Negative face is the human need for one's material goods such as time and money to be protected from others. By the way the phrase "things of that nature" is vague as well. These vague phrases are most frequently used when writers are attempting to avoid the hard work of defining terms.
Some of the more common nouns used in order to avoid specificity are aspects, dimensions, facets, and factors, as in the following example:
2. There are many factors at work in this narrative.
A much more specific way of expressing (2) would be (3):
3. This story employs several narrative techniques: foreshadowing, an unreliable narrator, reversal of foregrounding and backgrounding, story-within-a-story.


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