Writing Tips: Correct Word Usage

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A colleague e-mailed me the following:

Yo Dawg! Wazzzzzzzup? I’m glad you got all up here and decided to take a looksie at this here worldliest lesson plashizzle plan in the hood! The receptacle of knowledge residing in your cranium will halt the enervating effects of lesson plans based on the boring paradigm. It encompasses Mazlow’s hierarchy of differentiated instruction based on learning strands across the curriculum.


I decided it was time to send him the following writing tips on word choice with an accompanying lesson plan:

Writing Tips: Word Usage Principles

  1. Use plain words for easily understood writing. The most complex ideas can be explained in simple language. Peppering your writing with fancy words will drive readers away.
  2. Define technical terms and obscure words
  3. Use words correctly. If you’re not sure how to use a word correctly, don’t use it.
  4. Avoid trite expressions, jargon, and cliches.
  5. Edit. Most problems can be corrected with proofreading, a dictionary, and a thesaurus. Everything you need to know about grammar can be found in a 5th grade grammar book.

Standard Written English

If you want to be judged on your ideas, use Standard Written English. If you have nothing of interest to say and want to dupe the reader, use slang, cliches, mixed metaphors, and regional idioms. Rules are more lax for informal assignments, journals, and narratives in which the author uses incorrect usage for stylistic purposes. Your ability to use Standard Written English reflects a good education and gives credibility to your ideas.

As a teacher it’s difficult to help students distinguish Standard Written English from the language they uae normally. I turned to my good friend Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Essays and they offered the following advice:

  1. Listen to reputable television network newspeople.
  2. Listen to audio books. Read along with the narrator.
  3. Copy well written paragraphs and essays.
  4. Use imitation as practice.

Word Usage Lesson Plan

  1. Instruct students to bring in a draft of a previously written essay.
  2. Instruct students to copy the word usage principles stated above.
  3. Organize students in groups of four.
  4. Instruct students to pass their draft to another group member.
  5. Instruct editors to circle all abstract nouns and nouns of generalization. The editor should identify the word, not change it. The decision to change a word lies with the writer.
  6. Pass papers to the next group member.
  7. Instruct editor 2 to circle all adverbs.
  8. Instruct editor 3 to circle any word they don’t understand.
  9. Instruct editor 1 to circle cliches, jargon, or trite expressions.
  10. Instruct editor 2 to circle any error in mechanics.
  11. Instruct each student to examine his or her own draft for nouns and verbs that can be replaced by more specific nouns and verbs.
  12. Rewrite the essay.

This post is part of the series: Paragraphs and Sentences

Improving essays, articles, and research papers begins by improving sentences and paragraphs.

  1. Lesson Plan to Teach Paragraph Writing and Paragraph Structure
  2. Teaching the Methods of Paragraph Development
  3. Lesson Plan: Improve Writing with Good Sentence Structure
  4. Lesson Plan: Correct Word Usage
  5. A Lesson Plan on How to Evaluate an Essay for Organization?