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Choose Your Words: Word Choice Checklist

  1. Underline any words whose meaning or spelling you want to check and any you might want to replace. Then spend some time with a dictionary and a thesaurus.
  2. Look for words that might not convey exactly what you mean. (Is thrifty better than stingy, for example?) Also look for vague words that do not convey the image you have in mind.
  3. Check any figurative language for appropriateness, think about where a simile (a comparison) might help convey your meaning, and find more original substitutes for any clichés.
  4. Check for tone and level of formality. Make sure that any colloquial, regional, ethnic, or specialized work terms appear only in appropriate contexts.
  5. Check for gender bias in your use of he and she and other words that show gender. Also look for any excessive use of singular nouns referred to with he or she or his or her: A nurse must constantly monitor his or her patients, and he or she has to keep calm in difficult situations.
  6. Look for language that might exclude or offend. Have you used words like they and these people to mean people different from you? we and normal to mean those similar to you? If so, revise: build community with your readers by eliminating disrespectful or stereotyping terms referring to race, place, age, politics, religion, abilities, or sexual orientation.
See also
Dictionary and Thesaurus
Exact Words and Connotations
Tone and Language
Figurative Language
Avoiding Biased Language
Avoiding Tired and Pretentious Language