Word Choice Exercise (174)

Many English speakers use the informal words kid and kids to refer to children, sometimes in contexts that call for a more formal word choice. Decide which of the alternatives is a more suitable word.

  • The personnel manager asked the job applicant if he had any kids at home.

  • All kids planning to go to college must report to the auditorium.

  • All kindergarten kids are expected to know the alphabet by the end of the year.

  • The homeless man was beaten to death by three kids.

  • Outside the hospital nursery, the new fathers gazed at the kids through the glass.

Answers and Explanations

1. The personnel manager asked the job applicant if he had any kids at home.

Correct: children
The safest choice in a business context is children. Some people think "rug rats" is cute, but to some it suggests the speaker has contempt for children. The word brat definitely refers to a badly behaved child. Depending upon the formality of the the interview, a personnel manager might use the word kids.

2. All kids planning to go to college must report to the auditorium.

Correct: students
In the context of applying for college, a twelfth-grader may appropriately be called a student.

3. All kindergarten kids are expected to know the alphabet by the end of the year.

Correct: pupils
Children enter kindergarten at the age of five. They are there to be instructed, but at that age and stage of learning, pupil is a more appropriate choice than student.

4. The homeless man was beaten to death by three kids.

Correct: youths
The words teen and student both have strong positive connotations. The less freighted word youth is preferable here as the these young people have committed a vicious act.

5. Outside the hospital nursery, the new fathers gazed at the kids through the glass.

Correct: babies
The word waif suggests a child that has no parents. The word urchin is more suitable for an older child who has been roaming the streets neglected and dirty. Babies is the most suitable choice for a newborn still in the hospital. Another word for baby is infant.

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