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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Style in Technical Writing: Word Choice

I. Use appropriate terms.

A. Use formal English.
1. Avoid colloquial terms
2. Avoid slang.
3. Avoid vulgar terms.

B. Use standard English.
1. Avoid jargon.
2. Avoid gobbledygook.

C. In the Philippines, use American English not British English.

Term differences

American -- British
apartment -- flat
attorney -- barrister, solicitor
candy -- sweets
elevator -- lift
faculty -- staff (of a university)
gasoline -- petrol
semester -- term
sidewalk -- pavement
trashcan -- dust-bin, rubbish- bin
truck -- lorry

Spelling differences

American -- British
labor -- labour
center -- centre
organization -- organisation

II. Choose exact terms.

A. Use specific rather than generic terms.

Use stroll, limp, march, parade, wade, plod, pace rather than walk.
Use discuss, chat, whisper, growl, lecture rather than talk.

B. Use connotation rather than denotation.

Although in denotation house and home are synonymous. They are not in connotation. The student comes from a broken home not a broken house.

Although in denotation famous and notorious are synonymous. They are not in connotation. Rizal is a famous hero not a notorious one.

C. Avoid wordiness. Be concise.

Wordy: We have a difference of opinion with the decision the judge made.
Concise: We disagree with the decision the judge made.

Wordy: He has a strong preference for portrait painting.
Concise: He strongly prefers portrait painting.

Wordy: I came to the realization that I was wrong.
Concise: I realized that I was wrong.

D. Avoid redundancy.

Redundant -- Replace with
he/she is a person who -- he/she
important/basic essentials -- essentials
close proximity -- proximity
lucky winner -- winner
triangular in shape -- triangular

moral lesson -- moral or lesson

E. Avoid cliché.

Cliche -- Replace with
acid test -- test
agree to disagree -- disagree
bitter end -- end
play it by ear -- improvise
broad daylight -- daylight


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