A Science Communication Intervention: Word Choice

I am currently intervening in an undergraduate-level science course. Along with the basic science, students will learn how to communicate their ideas and perspectives effectively. Here’s what we are discussing this week: Word Choice.


Lesson 1: Passive vs. Active Voice

Active voice is more impactful than passive voice.


Lesson 2: Over-Used, Flowery, and Cliché Language

Some words are weak because they are too commonly used. You want your writing to stand out and be memorable, not drown in a stack of papers that are essentially identical.

Passionate, Love  – These words are over used and can read as juvenile.

Really, Truly, Deeply – Flowery language and excessive adverbs come off as insincere.

Think outside the box – Cliché phrases come off as trendy rather than creative.

You may be tempted to use a thesaurus to find more unique and smarter-sounding words. Tread with caution! Do not use words or phrases that you are unfamiliar with or that sound unnatural in your writing. Often, the simplest words are the most effective at showcasing your skills and personality.


Lesson 3: Word Strength

This is a good document that tells about written communication.

[ weak words ]

What makes these words so weak?

  • Good provides a general judgement but does not explain how, why, or in what way.
  • Document does not tell us what kind of document this is.
  • Tells does not demonstrate how this document communicates information.

This class syllabus outlines and describes how to effectively incorporate written-science communication into a science curriculum.

[ strong words ]


Lesson 4: Wordiness

Reduce wordiness to make your writing more concise, easier to understand, and more pleasant to read.


Assignment

Practice selecting strong words and phrases when you complete your homework this week. Things to consider:

  • Are you using an active voice? Remember to start your sentences with the doer of action rather than the receiver of action.
  • After you write you first draft, reconsider the strength of all your nouns and verbs. Can you use another word that is more descriptive? Can you use another word that is more unique?
  • Don’t be overly wordy. If a phrase sounds awkward when spoken out loud, try shortening it to be more concise and read more naturally.

 


Date

Topic

Week 1 9/26 Overview and Motivation
Week 2 10/3 Sentence Structure
Week 3 10/10 Purpose and Paragraph Structure
Week 4 10/17 Word Choice
Week 5 10/24 Jargon
Week 6 10/31 Demonstration
Week 7 11/7 Audience and Framing
Week 8 11/14 Review

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