tip#33 - Improving Your Writing: Upgrading Your Vocabulary

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As an English language trainer, checking students’ writing is probably one of the most time consuming and tedious tasks that I do on a regular basis. There are several reasons why it has become the most frustrating tasks of my job. For this month I want to address one specific frustration that I have when going over students’ writing assignments…a frustration that I know many teachers share. Students using words that are too simplistic in their writing drives me crazy. Most of my students know more than they think they know! They are either unaware of the strength of their own vocabulary base or are just either too lazy or afraid to put new or rarely used vocabulary into practice. The following tip/ strategy by Kristofer Bayne can help students get on the right track when it comes to their writing. It will help give their writing the depth it most likely deserves.

Upgrade Your Vocabulary:
‘Select certain highlight pen or pencil colours for certain vocabulary items. For example, yellow for nouns, green for verbs, and other colours for adjectives, transitions and so on. Go through your writing and highlight or underline all the examples you can find. Then, think (consider): “Is that word the best I can do?” Do the words actually (precisely) say (express) what you want to say (convey)? Can you find another, better (superior) word? Either you can think more carefully about words you know or go to a thesaurus. A thesaurus is a book like a dictionary except that it lists words of the same meaning. You can buy (purchase) print versions, Roget’s Thesaurus being the most famous, but most electronic dictionaries and computers have them. I thought about many words in this paragraph and put a better word next to them in parenthesis ( ). One of them was the word say. The thesaurus on my computer suggested many words instead of say: state, speak, remark, utter, express, voice, declare, pronounce. Not all examples in a thesaurus will mean the same thing so you need to cross-reference with a dictionary to make sure it is the meaning you really want.’ (Bayne ,Kristofer Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XI, No. 3, March 2005)

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