Diction is word choice. A word that is suitable in conversation or informal writing may lower the tone of writing intended for a general audience. Assuming that all of the following sentences are intended to be heard or read by a large general audience, choose the more appropriate word for each sentence.
1. The CEO visited the company’s factory in Cleveland for the purpose of ______ the proposed policy to allow parents with children to share one job.
2. The senator said that something must be done for the single ______ who are unable to feed their children nutritious meals.
3. Investigating the attack, police discovered that the vandalism was the work of a gang of ______ .
4. Following the burglary, the perpetrator _________ .
a) fled the scene
b) took it on the lam
5. News just in: King Ludwig of Transylvania ________ at 3:20 a.m.
a) passed away
Answers and Explanations
1. The CEO visited the company’s factory in Cleveland for the purpose of promoting the proposed policy to allow parents with children to share one job.
The verb tout began as thieve’s cant for “to act as a lookout.” As a noun, a tout in racetrack parlance is a person who offers tips as to which horse is likely to win. Because of its less than respectable connotations, tout is not as neutral a term as promote.
2. The senator said that something must be done for the single mothers who are unable to feed their children nutritious meals.
The word mom, while not exactly slang, is a term of intimacy that is inappropriate to use as a generic term for mother. Even the word mother, although the general term for a woman who has borne a child, carries emotional overtones. The word woman might be an even better choice when a neutral tone is desired.
3. Investigating the attack, police discovered that the vandalism was the work of a gang of seventeen-year-olds.
The word kids is used in so many contexts to refer to so many age groups that it lacks precision. Parents call their children of any age “kids” as a term of affection, but in other contexts, kid may be intended as a pejorative term. Ex: He doesn’t know anything; he’s just a kid. Other possible replacements for kid, depending upon the age group meant: child, youth, teenager, adolescent.
4. Following the burglary, the perpetrator fled the scene.
a) fled the scene
The usual term for the act of running away from danger is to flee. Residents flee a burning building. Campers flee an attacking bear. “To take it on the lam” is a slang expression usually applied to the act of fleeing the police.
5. News just in: King Ludwig of Transylvania died at 3:20 a.m.
Passed away is a euphemism intended to obscure the starkness of death. In reporting the news, the most direct word is usually best.