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Using words correctly

This section covers three main issues in using words correctly.

Avoiding incorrect use

If you don't use words correctly it may change the meaning.

In academic writing it is important to use precise words i.e. ones which have a very exact meaning.

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Lecturer Name: Jeanette Baker
Lecturer Description: Teaches Marketing in the Faculty of Organisation and Management

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Lecturer Name: Chris Hopkins
Lecturer Description: Teaches English in the Faculty of Society and Development

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Lecturer Name: Steve Harriman
Lecturer Description: Teaches Communications in the Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Science (ACES)

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Lecturer Name: Jenny Shelton
Lecturer Description: Teaches Biochemistry in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing

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Examples

Example 1
From the research, it can be inferred that cigarette smoking causes cancer.
This means that it can be concluded that cigarette smoking causes cancer (i.e. it is definite).

From the research, it can be implied that cigarette smoking causes cancer.
This means that the research suggests that cigarette smoking causes cancer (i.e. it is not definite).

Example 2
You will be observed between Monday - Friday.
This means that at some time from Monday to Friday you will be observed.

You will be observed during Monday - Friday.
This means that you will be observed during the whole time from Monday to Friday.

It can also look silly, if you use a word completely wrongly!

To make sure you have used words correctly:
  • use a dictionary
  • ask somebody to check your work for any incorrect usage (note: individual work which is assessed must be your own)
  • note any words used wrongly to avoid using them incorrectly in future.
Using specialised or technical words

Your reader (e.g. a tutor) may expect you to correctly use technical or specialist terms (e.g. to show that you understand them).

If you are sure your reader will understand such words, that is fine.

However, the reader may not understand them (e.g. you may be writing something as if it was for the general public). If so:
  • explain a word the first time you use it
  • or try to find a less technical or specialised word.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004