Writing Precisely

Your writing can be made increasingly effective if you attempt to construct meaningful paragraphs. Every paragraph—to be worthy of the name—must contain at least two sentences. Furthermore, they should deal with one idea summarized in a topic sentence found somewhere in the paragraph. If you use active summaries and previews, you will compose understandable paragraphs. Unless clear sentences summarize entire paragraphs, their focus will be unclear.

Using Precise Words

Good writing requires using words properly. The following topics involve the essentials of language use.

Avoiding Jargon. One way to assure using precise words is to avoid jargon. Jargon is specialized language that excludes others from understanding what is said. Every field has its own specialized language and unique terms. After time, this specialized language can become bewildering. Motorola Corporation had to publish a thick directory of acronyms to permit employees to understand the abbreviations that had become part of their specialized language. You should not be afraid to use the specific language of a field, but you should use terms that are direct and, whenever possible, rely on language that the greatest number of intelligent people can understand. Einstein expressed this concern best: "Ideas should be stated as simply as possible, but no simpler." This requirement does not mean that you should avoid topics that are technical—quite the contrary! But, your writing should use only those specialized terms that are essential. Table 1 shares a guide to jargon and bureaucratic verbiage that should be avoided. In your writing not only should jargon be avoided, but if abbreviations cannot be eliminated completely, they should be minimized.

Jargon and Bureaucratic Phrases to Avoid

Words often are composed of verbal fog that confuses rather than helps. Scan your own research writing to see if you use jargon that should be replaced with crisp alternatives.

Phrase to Avoid                                         Phrase of Word to Substitute

study in depth study *
consensus of opinion consensus *
at the present time now * **
until such time as until *
in the area of about *
in connection with about
in the event of if *
provided if
providing if
for the purpose of to *
in order to to *
take action act *
equally as equally *
most importantly most important
it has come to my attention I understand
in view of because *
due to the fact that because
based on the fact that because **
due to since; because
period of time time **
the reason is because the reason is; (or) because [not both] **
the reason why the reason is; (or) because [not both]
a total of 68 subjects 68 subjects **
advance planning planning
four different groups saw four groups saw **
but that that
human being human
in the field of in
in many instances often; frequently
high-level management top management
college level courses college courses
near disaster nearly disastrous
near perfect nearly perfect
off of from; (or) off
real facts facts
true facts facts
there were several students who completed several students completed

*From Roman & Raphaelson (1981, pp. 15-16)

**From Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (1994, p. 27)



Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.).
    (1994). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Roman, K., & Raphaelson, J. (1981). Writing that works. New York: Harper &