Monday, June 05, 2023

7 Writing Snares to Look Out For


Knowing where the trap is-- that's the first step in evading it.

Frank Herbert.

Let's take a look at 7 writing snares, and discover what we can do to get out of them.

1. Using Jargon

A technical terminology unique to a particular subject.  Wordhippo

Specific industries and professions such as the medical or legal will use their own language.  To a wider audience this kind of language sounds like nothing more than gobbledegook.

If you want to reach a wider audience you really need to give an explanation of what certain words mean if they're not that familiar with your audience.  

Whatever you're writing you always want to make your message as clear as possible to the reader.  Don't confuse your audience with terms, acronyms and jargon they won't understand.

2. Using Weasel Words

A word used to qualify a statement so as to make it potentially misleading.  Wordhippo

Weasel words are the kind of words that are ambiguous and misleading, and can be used to confuse the reader without them even knowing it.  

It's very easy for weasel words to creep into your writing if you let them, but with lots of practice you can just about eliminate them completely.

3. Using Vague Language

When you start using words like 'should,' might,' or 'may' you leave your audience thinking something has been missed out.  


She spent some time swimming.

Instead use:

She spent one hour swimming.

Be sure about what you're writing about, give your reader clarity, or inform them that they have to fill in the missing pieces.  Don't leave them hanging unless you have a specific reason.

4. Using Hedging Language

Hedging is the use of cautious language, making what you say less direct or certain.

Phrases like:

  • I feel like...
  • It appears as though...
  • It seems that...
  • It would be great if...

Or just a polite way of being indirect to your audience. 

This kind of language is often used in legal jargon because it frees lawyers and consultants from any responsibility on advice they may have given to their client.

5. Using Nominalisations

Is the process of changing verbs or adjectives to nouns. Academic English UK.

Nominalisations are nouns created from adjectives.


Noun - Distortion Verb - Distort

Noun - Intention Verb - Intend

Noun - Investigation - Verb - Investigate

Noun - Failure - Verb - Fail 

Sometimes nominalisations can be a better choice if you're using something that is familiar to your reader, like a relationship.  You can use this as a way of expressing the way people interact with each other, or objects.

6. Using Abstract Words

In language, abstract words are words that refer to ideas, beliefs and other intangible things.

We instinctively know what abstract words are because they are so powerful, but up close their meaning can be vague.  

Depending on the context used, abstract words can mean just about anything to the reader.  Using these words frequently your audience is left to their own thoughts as to the real meaning. 

7. Using Too Much Padding

Unnecessary words or information used to make a piece of writing or a speech longerCollins Dictionary.

Your aim should be clear writing unless you have a reason to leave certain information out which you think will benefit your audience.  Stay away from adding words that don't need to be in a sentence.  Keep only what is necessary in your sentences.  You'll find your readers will be a lot happier.

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