Word Choice
6 Traits of Good Writing
 http://www.madglibs.com/
What trait are we working with?
Basic level—choosing words that are the correct part of speech
and have the generally correct meaning
EX: I eat a cake yesterday. I ate a cake yesterday. “Eat” is
present tense; “ate” is past tense.
EX: Because I studied independently, I self-possessed completed
my paper. Self-possessed appears as a synonym for
independently, so you might try and use it the same way, but
they are not interchangeable.
EX: I defiantly love to read. I definitely love to read. “Defiant” is
the correct word choice for the sentence; it has the incorrect
Intermediate level
Switch general nouns to specific nouns, utilize more
interesting verbs, vary word choice
Many words we rely on are overused or too general
(vague). To give your writing stronger voice or make it
subtly persuasive, pay attention to these vague, overused
words and thoughtfully submit mores specific words.
EX: nice kind, gentle, compassionate, pretty, thoughtful,
comfortable, fascinating
EX: people the government, teens, adults, senior citizens,
American citizens, children, toddlers, the
public, the media
EX: bad smell stench
Also, avoid repetition…
When it comes to intelligent people, Julia is just about the
most intelligent person I know.
This sounds significantly better with varied word choice…
When it comes to intelligent people, Julia is just about the
(Or try “brainiest,” “intellectual,” “astute,” “gifted,” or “bright”)
Each small group will get a poster. On the poster,
brainstorm and add as many appropriate words as you
can generate. When I say, “SWITCH,” pass your
poster to the next group and start on the next poster.
 Think of words we could use instead of: good, bad,
walk, said, things/stuff
 Think of words we could use when we can use for:
emotions, colors, transitions
Now, get out a sheet of paper…
In your same small groups, rotate the posters
around the room again, copying useful words
onto a notes sheet. Specifically pay attention
to the emotion words, transition words, and
good words, as these will be useful in writing
your personal statement.
Advanced Level
Creating opportunities for descriptive language, using
figures of speech, avoiding clichés
Descriptive language: Instead of saying, “It was a
beautiful day,” which gives little-to-no real information
about what the day was like, use descriptive language:
“The leaves were shades of crimson and gold, and the
sun illuminated every hue, giving the impression of a
forest bursting into flame.” OR “The sky looked as
though it had never even heard of clouds.”
Advanced Level
Figures of speech: Don’t be afraid to work
personification, metaphor, hyperbole (extreme
exaggeration—think “Yo Mama” jokes), or
understatement into your formal writing. It develops
voice and creates a more interesting text.
EX: Human understanding is an intricate spider web of
thought. Each strand of insight connects isolated
pieces of knowledge. The more dense this web of
connections becomes, the easier it is to catch the finer
details of a text.
Advanced Level
Avoiding clichés: Clichés are phrases so overused that
they seem to lose their meaning or the resonance they
once had.
EX: dead as a doornail, pitch-black, lovesick, YOLO,
home is where the heart is, daydreamer
Try replacing these words and phrases with new ways
to say the same thing.
EX: pitch-black  relentless darkness
Fix it!
 Bert goes to the finish line and wins the race.
 Oscar carefully took his newborn baby to his wife.
 Maria makes her own clothes from her own patterns.
Fix It!
 The good fans cheered for their team.
 Joey looked cool because he was wearing a nice jacket.
 The friends had a bad argument and didn’t speak for
Fix it!
 I remember August 14th best of all because it was a
perfect day. The weather was sunny and perfect, and
the beached looked good as we stepped onto the
 This article contains good ideas for saving money. It
explains a good, easy way to find bargains when
shopping. It also has some good tips on making your
money work for you.
Words to eliminate:
 You, your, you’re
 Like (unless you were just
eh about something, amp
up the language)
 Literally (unless you
actually mean LITERALLY)
 Very
 Nice
 Good
 Bad
 A lot
 First, second, third (as
transition words)
 Stupid/Dumb
 Ridiculous
*And anything else you feel
could be stronger, more
impactful, more meaningfilled.*
What to do now…
1. Finish your Writer’s Notebook (due Thursday)
 Hey! You could always make me a MadLib to complete
or do some other word choice themed writing!
2. Continue to look over your personal statement,
considering not only word choice, but
spelling/grammar, adding specific details, removing
unnecessary info, checking paragraph breaks, etc.
3. Work on homework for another class.
4. If nothing to do, read a book.

The 6 Traits of Good Writing