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Word Choice 8,223 views

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Word choice is also commonly known as diction. Diction is defined as thinking clearly about each specific word that is chosen. When choosing words, it is important to watch out for commonly confused words and to make sure that idioms are used correctly.

Let's talk about word choice and word choice is really important when it comes to writing. Now another fancy word for word choice is, diction. You hear that a little bit more when you are talking about literature and different authors' word choice. But essentially diction is making sure you are really clearly thinking about the words you are choosing to use. So things that you need to watch out for when you are focusing on your word choice is watch out for those confusing words, make sure you are using proper idioms or just kind of the ways that we use our language and then making sure that you are choosing the right verb. My trick for making sure I'm really closely checking my word choice is to read my writing out loud. I know it sounds silly but things come across differently when you hear it out loud.
So let's take a look at some common things that we want to consider. So with those confusing words, I've thrown a few sets up here that you may want to make sure that you are using properly. The first is "affect and effect", so one thing to know about this "affect" is a verb. So you can affect something. "Effect" is a noun, like cause an effect or side effects, alright? This is a good one that I see confused all the time; "passed and past". They sound the same, they're homophones but "passed" with an "ed" on the end is a past tense of a verb, "past" is an adjective or an adverb depending on how it's used. It describes your location and relation to something or it talks about the actual past in terms of past, present, future alright? "Fewer and less than" is another set that is often confused. Now 'fewer' you use when you can count the items that you are talking about. So if I was talking about cups of coffee, I need fewer cups of coffee tomorrow. However I would use the phrase "less than" if I'm talking about something that I can't count. So I can really numerate cups of coffee but it's harder to count coffee in general, so I would say I need less coffee tomorrow than I had today alright.
And finally we've got 'allusion and illusion'. Now "allusion" is something that you see mostly in literature, sometimes in art but it's when the author or creator makes a reference to another piece of literature or work of art. I tend to try to remember that with the "a", "a" equals art whereas an "illusion" something you might see in the desert kind of like a mirage, something that doesn't really exist. So those are some commonly confused words that you want to make sure you keep your eye up for when you're selecting them. Another thing you want to be aware of like I said is, idioms, alright? And really where I see in the most areas is the idiomatic use of prepositions. So if you notice, there is just things in our language that go together just because there is not really any rhyme or reason to it, you just have to memorize it and the more you read, the more you kind of pick up on those things. But some commonly confused ones; we say 'intend to' do something, so "to" goes with "intend", 'relate to' somebody, not relate with them alright? We 'work with' somebody, you are jealous 'of' something, oblivious 'to', and this one is a really tough one, "you are different from" people often want to say "different than" because it's a comparison, but "you are different from". That's our idiomatic use in English and then "separate from" as well.
So some of that is just taking a look and being exposed to the language but make sure you are using those idiomatic prepositions correctly. And then finally, you want to make sure you are using the correct verb, so I threw some commonly confused verbs up here, lay and lie, set and sit, raise and rise. And the simple rule here, is that everything on this left hand side should be followed by a noun. Over here, you follow with other ideas, alright? One way I remember this, is think a "chicken lays eggs" you wouldn't say a "chicken lies eggs", so that helps me remember that that's the part of the pair that goes with the noun. You are asked to "set the table" not "sit the table", so I remember that stuff goes with that and my dad will be proud of this one because he used to always do it at my basketball games. You "raise the roof" which reminds me that I've got a pair of nouns with "raise" you don't "rise the roof". So hopefully those things will help you remember some of these commonly confused words and help you think a little bit more closely about your diction.