Simple Synonyms Specify Meaning

Business writing is not the same as casual conversation, although it shouldn't sound academic either. In Business Writing That Counts! live webinars and online classes, we help writers produce effective communication. One way to ensure your writing counts is to be more specific in word choice than you might be in conversation.

You see, in everyday speaking, we rely on a consistent and limited vocabulary. But when you write to seek results, you need to expand your vocabulary. Choose words that illustrate specific meaning and mix up your adjectives. Select synonyms and make your writing more specific and engaging; here's how:

Instead of:

Good (or great). Multiple words can explain how "good" something is but choose one specific to your idea and the context of the sentence or material.

Try:

For example, "delectable" can replace "good" when describing food. But you wouldn't use it to replace "good" for a new office or an employee! In the case of an employee, how about "exemplary" to indicate the quality of the employee's work. "Formidable" means good, but with a connotation of strength. "Prime" indicates "first" or "the best." "Favorable" usually refers to encouraging results or outcomes. See where we're headed?

Instead of:

"Kind of." "Kind of" screams that a writer is hedging a bet. "Using vague words leads to kind of bad writing."

Try:

No, it just leads to bad writing — no measure needed. If "bad writing" sounds too strong, flip the sentence to a positive: "Replacing vague words with specific synonyms improves business writing." Sometimes, you don't need a synonym so much as you need a better phrase. For example, "it is kind of (or sort of) dark in the room" can simply become "It is too dark in here."

Instead of:

"New." "This is a new product in our summer catalog."

Try:

Readers probably will skip right over this short and overused adjective. What, exactly, is "new" about this product? Is it larger, smaller, faster or more sound? Or is it just the most "recent" model? We keep going back to food, but how about "fresh" as in "fresh approach to …" Could you replace new with latest, modern, or novel?

Instead of:

"Things." "We are getting things under control."

Try:

Things is about as vague as a noun can get. You can find replacement words such as: facts, concepts, concerns, or material. But the better approach is to find a good synonym for the specific "things" you mean. Our example above could read, "we are getting the production delays under control."

Instead of:

"Different." Like new, different tells people little about the distinction you want to suggest.

Try:

Take a minute to determine exactly what is "different," especially since the word has a few connotations that could mislead readers. "Different" can mean "odd," but it also can suggests "unique." So, pinpoint the specific reason or reasons a product, strategy, person, or team is different. "This team is more cohesive (experienced, dynamic . . . ) than the group who led last year's product launch."

One caution: Your writing does not improve with rampant use of a Thesaurus. Select only words specific to your meaning. Replacing every word with one that sounds more "intelligent" is not a strategy for Business Writing That Counts! Enroll in a live webinar today for more tips like these or call us at 425-485-3221 for more on our business writing courses and coaching.

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