Word selection

  • Use concrete, specific words
    Specifying numbers, degree, nature and categories helps reader understand precisely what you mean.

  • Use specialized terms when (and only when) your readers will understand them
    This helps you convey precise technical meanings economically. You also gain credit by showing that you have specific knowledge to the subject matter

  • Use words accurately
    A dictionary helps you find out the exact meaning and connotation of words. Always look up when you have doubts.

  • Choose plain words over fancy ones
    Plain words promote efficient reading and reduce your risk of creating a bad impression of being pompous.

  • Choose words with appropriate associations
    Some English words have very similar denoted meanings but different connotation or are suitable in different registers. Look up the dictionary to make sure that you pick the right word.

  • Global guideline: consider your readers’ cultural background when choosing words
    Cultural difference may sometimes results in misunderstanding. For example, 'football' in England refers to the kind of sports that David Beckham plays; but in the States the same sports is called 'soccer', and 'football' refers to 'American football' where people throw the olive-shaped ball with hands.

  • Ethics guideline: use inclusive language
    Avoid words that promote or connote negative stereotype, such as gender bias (as in words like ‘businessman’, or using ‘he’ instead of ‘he or she’ when referring to people in general).


Source: Anderson, P. V. 2007. Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach. (6th ed.). Boston: Thomson Wadsworth