A Final word On Diction.

Overuse Of Jargon.  Jargon is an affected or exaggerated way of expressing yourself. Use it sparingly. Don’t create jargon that’s unique to your document in the form of abbreviations, acronyms, or other short-hand words.  It may be hard to spot this problem if you’ve been working in a certain field for awhile.  Consider asking someone outside your field to review your work for unfamiliar words.

Even the use of an acronym that is not new to you may be new to someone who does not have your familiarity with the subject.  Thus, the fact that the term “euro,” refers to the currency unit used by some members of the European Union may not be known to those who do not follow business news or have foreign  investments. A good rule of thumb to remember is not to use jargon without explanation or providing a definition if its use increases the difficulty of understanding your writing.  And don’t use it more than two or three times, whether explained or not.

For example, if following sports is your passion, acronyms or abbreviations such as NCAA, NFL, and PGA may be as familiar to you as the back of your hand.  But to a non-sports fan they are likely to be meaningless.  So, spell them out, National Collegiate Athletic Association, National Football League, and Professional Golfers Association, to be on the safe side, and briefly explain what each is and what each does.

If you’re a financial news maven, abbreviations such as DJIA, S & P and CPI may be second nature to you; if you’re not into reading the business news, better to spell it out that DJIA refers to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S & P refers to Standard & Poor, a well known financial rating service, and CPI stands for Consumer Price Index.

On the other hand some acronyms and abbreviations are so well known as not to require any explanation.  NATO, CPA, CIA, GM, and ATM are in such common usage that they are universally known and should not require definition.

Weights and measures should be expressed in U.S. equivalents and not the metric system. If you absolutely have to use the metric system, also show the U.S. equivalents.

Use words and terms consistently throughout your writing.

 No Rhythm.  Proper diction is also evidenced by rhythmic writing.   This means sentences and paragraphs must flow smoothly and evenly, without undue interruption or qualification.  Lack of rhythm is evidenced by a herky jerky, jumpy flow of information.  Develop an ear for your writing and listen to its tempo as you write and revise.    

Avoid Common Usage Mistakes. Finally, avoid common mistakes such as writing “in regards to”; the correct usage is “in regard to.”  But, ending a letter with “Best Regards,” is correct.  Don’t use “irregardless“, there is no such word; use “regardless.” Don’t write “your” when you mean “you’re,” and don’t write, “I’ve been waiting on [someone or something],” an often used colloquialism, when you mean, “I’ve been waiting for [someone or something].”

Learn the difference between often misused words such as capital and capitol, principle and principal, then and than, that and which, and affect and effect, to name a few, and correctly use them.  The following definitions may be found in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)  (Use an unabridged dictionary or a good style manual to flesh out the full meaning and correct usage of all unfamiliar words):

capital – seat of government (Washington D.C. is the capital of the  United States);  a crime punishable by death is a capital offense.

capitol – the building where the U.S. Congress or a state legislature  meets.

then       —    at that time, next in order

than       —    in comparison with

affect    —     inclined, disposed

effect    —     to bring about, put into operation

farther — at a greater distance or more advanced point

further — advanced not only in space or time but in quantity

The farther mountain; which is the farther tree?  No  further steps will be taken; we will not go any further.

that    )  —


who   )

 Use who chiefly with persons, sometimes animals; use which to refer chiefly to things; use that with persons or things; according to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.), p.1294 (that, def. 4, usage), that and which are used regularly to introduce restrictive clauses. (A restrictive clause is a descriptive clause that is essential to the definiteness of the word it modifies, e.g., Where is the house that Jack built?  The ink that you need is no longer available.)  Id. p. 1063 (restrictive clause).

 Failure to use a word correctly will cause a major drop in your credibility, which is the bottom line.  Once you lose credibility, you may face an uphill battle to regain it.   Common writing mistakes such as these will quickly stamp you as an amateur.  Avoid them at all costs.

Copyright 20o12.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.




Filed under clear writing

2 responses to “A Final word On Diction.

  1. Excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing. I really enjoyed it very much.

    Enjoy writing? We would love for you to join us!

    Writers Wanted

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.