The Herald Bulletin

August 17, 2013

A guide to using words properly and wisely

Verna Davis
The Herald Bulletin

---- — Well, school has begun for most every school system.

Teachers are fine-tuning lesson plans. College students are dreading the upcoming semester with just one glance at a syllabus. As a former instructor of a basic freshman writing class, I’d like to give my academic readers a little free advice about word usage.

First of all, when writing avoid alliteration. Always in all ways. Never use a long word when diminutive verbiage can enlighten your readers. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant or interesting) are unnecessary. Try not to use ampersands & abbreviations, etc. Also, remember to never split an infinitive.

It’s best to remember contractions aren’t necessary. Foreign words and phrases are not usually apropos. One should never generalize. Remember that quotations should be used sparingly, but with great meaning. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” You should not be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; they’re highly superfluous. One word sentences? Eliminate. And really, who needs rhetorical questions? Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. As for exaggeration, it is a billion times worse than understatement.

Writers don’t never use a double negative. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. Remember, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!! If any word is improper to place at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague. They’re old hat, after all.

Speaking of word usage, God wants to make sure we use our words properly. He doesn’t care if our grammar is correct. But He does care if our words speak truth. He cares that our words are good and bring glory and honor to God. Psalm 19:14 says it like this: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Are our words pleasing to God? Do our words bring honor to Him? Or our words those of criticism, complaints, gossip, exaggeration? Do we tear down others with our words in hopes of building up ourselves? Are our words careless, thoughtless, and discouraging to our listeners?

“Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth,” says Psalm 54:2. We should be encouraged to pray like Paul did in Ephesians 6:19. “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

We must make sure our words are used wisely. Jesus spoke a strong warning about the use of our words. He said, in Matthew 12:36-37, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Wow. Speaking of advice about proper words usage.

Verna Davis, author and speaker, writes in Frankton. She can be reached at