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IMPROVING DICTION
1. Avoid vague, slippery words and phrases:
1. thing
2. stuff
3. really
4. truly
5. very
6. cool
7. awesome
8. nice
9. interesting
10. a lot
11. kind of
12. sort of
13. situation
14. the fact that
15. aspect
16. so much (how much?)
17. many, a few (how many?)
18. put up with
19. get, got
20. went
20. up (Up mean up.)
21. totally
22. absolutely
23. awfully
24. incredibly
25. forms of “to be”: is, was, are, am
26. used to
27. all
28. big
29. just
30. in this world (Where else? Pluto?)
2. Avoid clichés (ten examples):
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
pretty as a picture
let the cat out of the bag
dumb as a rock
thin as a rail
nutty as a fruitcake
wise as an owl
pride and joy
playing with fire
9. easier said than done
10. ladder of success
3. Avoid weak sentence beginnings using There are and It is.
1. There is another museum we will visit.
Revision: We will visit another museum.
4. Use specific diction and select strong verbs:
1. Martha walked into the National Insect Museum.
Revision: Martha shuffled into the National Insect Museum.
Further revision: Martha shuffled into the National Insect Museum crawling
with cockroaches.
5. Avoid passive voice:
1. The letter was sent to him.
Revision: Laura sent the letter to him.
2. A decision was made to visit the Rothko Chapel.
Revision: I decided to visit the Rothko Chapel. (Try to turn nominal into a strong
verb.)
6. Avoid wordy introductory phrases:
1. At this point in time . . .
2. Due to the fact that . . .
3. In the modern world of today . . .
4. In the event that . . .
7. Use the correct word:
1. At the museum, we saw the affects of racism.
Revision: At the museum, we saw the effects of racism.
8. Reword nominals when possible.
1. I gave a definition of the word “pilgrimage.”
Revised: I defined the word “pilgrimage.”
9. Make sure you have clear references for the pronouns “this” and “it.” You might want
to follow the word “this” with a noun for clear reference. Be sure that the pronoun “they”
has a clear reference.
1. It says in the brochure that Indians traded goods in front of the old bakery.
Revised: The brochure reveals that Indians once traded goods in front of the old
bakery.
2. This is what the first settlers of Houston discovered when they landed at the
foot of Main Street.
Revised: This muddy road, eventually to be called Main Street, is what the first
settlers of Houston discovered when they landed at the foot of Main Street.
IMPROVING DICTION
DIRECTIONS: Examine the faulty diction in the following sentences. In particular note
examples of wordiness, cliché, wrong word, passive voice, weak verbs, and vague, slippery
language. Improve the diction to achieve concise (clear, to the point) and precise (exact word)
sentences.
1. I saw a lot of nice things once I got into the Museum of Funeral History.
2. I put up with the tour guide’s speech for twenty minutes.
3. The website on the Rothko Chapel hit the nail on the head concerning contemplative
space.
4. I saw several students who were having a visitation in the Holocaust Museum.
5. The museum had an exhibit on how John F. Kennedy was assonated and killed.
6. It is the Beer Can House that I decided to visit.
7. All things considered, the Live Oak Meeting House engaged my interest.
8. The new Hindu Temple in Stafford, Texas, was seen by two of our classmates and me.
9. There were many tombstones in Glenwood Cemetery that I could have chosen to write
about.
10. Due to the fact that the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum documents the lives of Black
soldiers, I made the decision to visit it.
11. It is interesting to me think about the Byzantine Fresco Chapel right here in our own city
of Houston.
12. In my opinion, the Houston Zoo effects the lives of children who at an early age visit it at
an impressionable age.
13. Walking through the aisles of Mexican folk art in Casa Ramirez, the colorful wall
hangings were what caught my eye and engaged my attention.
14. In the nick of time, I arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts to hear a lecture by some person
on that artist and painter known by many people today as Vincent Van Gogh.
15. The shop in Chinatown near the George R. Brown Convention Center that created an
interest in me was one where I bargained for and eventually bought it: an elephant teapot
for half of what the woman wanted in the first place.