Why and how to pinpoint your meaning with proper word choice

Effective usage is not simply about avoiding the wrong term or phrase. Precision and power rev up your text and keep readers driving on to the finish line: your overarching message.

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Writing with precision

Strong verbs, striking modifiers and vivid nouns will excite your audience and land your message.

In our previous installment on word choice, we examined misused words and tepid phrases that bog down text and send audiences fleeing.

This time, let’s explore the expanses of the dictionary and go spelunking in the thesaurus (Indiana Jones fedora optional) to discover all sorts of linguistic wonders to delight and captivate your readers.

We’ll start by injecting life into common, lifeless phrasing—with help from a couple of renowned writers:

Stephen King: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

Mary Oliver: “Look for verbs of muscle, adjectives of exactitude.”

So, let’s avoid hell—and even bypass purgatory—by ditching adverb-weakened phrases in favor of “verbs of muscle”.

Negatively affect: Damage, undermine, tarnish, hurt, sabotage

Review harshly: Condemn, scathe, excoriate, eviscerate, sear

Respond positively to: Laud, extol, celebrate, lionize, acclaim

Handle badly: Botch, boot, bungle, mangle, fumble

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