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Improve Writing by Using Specific Words In Sentences

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 9/11/2012

Students can improve their writing tremendously by using specific words in sentences. Read more to find ways to teach this skill.

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    Tips For Teaching Student: Using Specific Words in Sentences

    If you want your students to improve their writing skills, then it is imperative to teach them to use precise language. Using vague language weakens writing, so if students are taught to use specific words in sentences, their writing will improve.

    For example, if a student is writing about a summer day and is accustomed to using precise language, instead of describing the day as “really, really hot," he might choose to describe the day as “sweltering." Or, instead of saying a person “ran" somewhere, the student might use the word “sprint." When students are taught to use vivid, precise language, their writing improves.

    Tips For Teaching Precise Language and Improving Writing Skills

    1) Limit Students’ Use Of Adjectives and Adverbs

    It is better to use one strong verb or noun than two or three adjectives or adverbs and one weak noun or verb. For example, instead of saying someone talked very quietly, the student could say that the person murmured. I do not recommend forbidding the use of adverbs and adjectives, just limiting it.

    2) Find The Words Your Students Overuse and Forbid Them For A Week (Or Longer)

    In my classroom, the words very, really, beautiful, good, and bad are always forbidden, at least for the first several weeks of school. After that, depending on the students’ writing level, I permit their limited use. The reason I forbid them is that they are just too easy to overuse. How many times have you read about the “very pretty sunset" or the “really good pizza?"

    3) Use Word Walls

    I simply cut up sentence strips, write words I would like to see used, and hang them up around the classroom. This allows students to simply look around the room to get ideas for using specific words in sentences.

    4) Model the use of precise language

    Don't expect students to begin using vivid and precise language simply because you told them to do so. You must teach them what to do and and one way to do this is to model what you expect from your students. Write for them and use words that you want to see them use in their writing. Read more about modeling here.

    5) Make It Entertaining

    When teaching students about the use of precise language, try to make it fun at least some of the time. Play games. See an example here.

    When students are taught to use precise language, they are not only improving their writing skills, they are also strengthening their vocabulary, which will help with reading comprehension and speaking skills. This will help to improve those standardized test scores we all worry so much about. So,as you can see, teaching students the value of using specific words in sentences is beneficial in numerous ways.