Effective writing requires the use of appropriate words and phrases, which can make a great difference in the quality as well as the effectiveness of your writing.
Selecting words with the right connotation and denotation
Denotation is the precise meaning of a word; connotation is the association of a word, which can be positive, negative, or neutral.
e.g. slender with a positive connotation, suggesting “tall” and “thin”
e.g. thin with a neutral connotation
e.g. skinny with a negative connotation of being “too thin”
Using words in their right parts of speech
e.g. occupational hazard NOT occupation hazard (using noun for an adjective)
e.g. sleep well NOT sleep good (using an adjective for an adverb)
Well, not good, is generally used in a compound word to form a compound adjective:
e.g. A person who behaves well is well-behaved.
e.g. A person with good intentions is well-intentioned.
e.g. A person who speaks well is well-spoken.
BUT “a person with good looks is good-looking.” (NOT well-looking, possibly because well-looking may suggest “looking healthy”.
Using correct idioms
Idioms are accepted expressions in the English language. They add elegance to your writing. But incorrect idioms can make your writing look sloppy. The following are examples of incorrect use of idioms:
e.g. according to NOT according with
e.g. aptitude for NOT aptitude toward
e.g. capable of doing NOT capable to do
e.g. complain to NOT complain with
e.g. comply with NOT comply to
e.g. conclude by saying NOT conclude in saying
e.g. conform to or with NOT conform in
e.g. die of NOT die from
e.g. different from NOT different to or different than
e.g. every now and then NOT ever now and then
e.g. except for NOT excepting for
e.g. identical with NOT identical to
e.g. in accordance with NOT in accordance to
e.g. incapable of doing NOT incapable to do
e.g. in my opinion, NOT to my opinion
e.g. in search of NOT in search for
e.g. in sight into NOT in sight of
e.g. intend to do NOT intend on doing
e.g. in the year 2010 NOT in the year of 2010
e.g. on the whole NOT on a whole
e.g. outlook on life NOT outlook of life
e.g. plan to do NOT plan on doing
e.g. prior to NOT prior than
e.g. regardless of NOT regardless to
e.g. relate to NOT relate with
e.g. similar to NOT similar with
e.g. super to NOT superior than
e.g. try to see NOT try and see
e.g. type of NOT type of a
e.g. what to do about this NOT what to do with this
Read my book American Idioms for ESL Learners.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau