Using The Right Words

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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In most writing manuals and English classrooms, the act of using the right words is also known as diction. Diction can be a funny thing, mostly because there are relative degrees of correctness when it comes to choosing words. Before the objectivists in the crowd start marching in protest, it's worth mentioning that there is such a thing as the "wrong" word--usually.

For every spit-and-polish grammarian out there you'll find a poet who believes with just as much conviction that all writing is poetry, and there are no improper words, just some that are better suited than others. Of course, if that poet were to say something like "The reason I say he's a debutante is because he always seems to jump from activity to activity without bothering to master any of them," it would be fairly obvious that, barring the most liberal of interpretations, this poet would be wrong. He would have meant to say the word "dilettante," not "debutante."

Not Using the Right Words

As humans, we're a judgmental lot. There's no occasion better tailored to sizing people up than listening to them speak, be it publicly or privately. The words we use, the ways in which we use them, and our idiosyncrasies when doing so are all things that positively or negatively influence our audience. It's for this reason that using the right words is so important. After all, that audience may be a potential employer, client, friend, or lover. It may be the entire television-watching public.

Anyone still left doubting the importance of understanding grammar, diction, spelling, and other style points need only look at our current Commander-in-Chief, widely derided for his tenuous grasp of English. Admittedly, the presidency is one job that invites criticism across the board, but one can hope those barbs are more policy related than pronoun related. Clearly then, whether you're writing a love letter or a State of the Union speech, using the right words is one of the most critical determinants of your effectiveness.


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