Strategies to Improve Word Selection | Writing

October 13, 2015 thetasctest

When you write, you’re involved in a series of choices. You select a theme, a tone, and, most importantly, words that will deliver meaning and style to your writing, and allow readers to comprehend the message behind your work.

As you practice writing for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™, use these three strategies to improve word choice and create compelling pieces of literature.

  1. Be clear. It’s easy to believe your readers live inside your mind and can understand the figurative language and vague references you use to make your point. But since they don’t, you need to give your readers clarity in your written work. Clarity in your writing is achieved by:
  • Using a pronoun when it’s unclear whom/what ‘it’ refers to.
  • My friend Mollie hugged my sister Allison, even though she didn’t like her very much.

Who is “she?” Who is “her?”

  • My friend Mollie hugged my sister Allison, even though Mollie didn’t like Allison very much.
  • Avoiding words with an unclear meaning.
  • I set mouse traps in their secret places.
  • I set mouse traps in hidden places.
  • Being careful of commonly misused words and phrases.
    • Affect vs. Effect. Affect is a verb meaning to influence. Effect is a noun meaning result. Effect is also a verb meaning to bring about.
    • Than vs. Then. Than is a conjunction used in comparisons. Then is an adverb designating time.
    • Supposed to vs. Suppose to. Do not exclude the d.  
    • I couldn't care less vs. I could care less. Make sure the phrase is negative.

Find an extensive list of commonly misused words and phrases at

  1. Be concise. Removing unnecessary words or phrases supports a strong word selection. One word can take the place of several and still hold the same meaning. Look at the following examples of eliminating words to achieve a concise flow:
  • During the course of can be consolidated to During.
  • Prior to can be consolidated to Before.
  • I came to the realization that can be consolidated to I realized that.
  1. Avoid clichés. In professional and academic writing, clichés are problematic because they’re wordy, unclear, overused, and diminish the impact of your message. If you notice the use of a cliché, ask yourself if it can be replaced by one or two words. For example:
  • “I’m up in the air” becomes “I’m undecided.”
  • “Agree to disagree” becomes “disagree.”
  • “Play it by ear” becomes “improvise.”

Looking for additional ways to improve word selection in your writing? Start by increasing your vocabulary. You’ll not only begin writing in a clear and concise manner, but you’ll also begin speaking and understating people on an advanced level.

Continue your practice for the TASC Writing subtest by taking our quiz on improving word selection »

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