As an editor, I am often asked to “elevate the language” of academic documents, which requires focusing on diction, or word use. Diction, according to Merriam-Webster, is the “choice of words especially with regard to correctness, clearness, or effectiveness” (it also refers to “enunciation”). To me, diction is simply using the right words!
Often, the task of elevating language means finding instances of informal word use, colloquialisms and clichés to change them to a more formal tone. However, as the example below illustrates, elevating diction doesn’t require you to have a GRE or spelling bee level vocabulary.
Sentence: The purpose of this study is to SHED LIGHT ON the influence of substance use on the decision making of young adults.
Edited Sentence: The purpose of this study is to UNDERSTAND the influence of substance use on the decision making of young adults.
Explanation: Elevating diction involves locating short and informal phrases, like “shed light on” in the sentence above, and replacing them with one word, like “understand” in the edited sentence. However, it mainly requires a scholar to note how research is described within one’s discipline and mirroring that style of language in your writing. Therefore, elevating diction can take time as you do more academic reading, but you can do it!
When reading academic journals, manuscripts and other scholarly works, do so with an attentive eye to the type of diction used. You don’t always have to copy words verbatim; instead, find similar words that fit the way you want to express scholarship.
Until next week, Happy Writing!!!
Author of I'm Not a Writer...I am Just in Graduate School (order your copy at https://www.amazon.com/Not-Writer-Just-Graduate-School/dp/1533392919)
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