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Words not in my dissertation that should be

November 29, 2007

In scientific/technical writing, there’s an opportunity to use words that you may not use on a daily basis. And when you spend most of your waking hours writing for months at a time, you begin to see patterns in the words you use. I definitely have words I use…and I most likely overuse them. I’m getting pretty sick of these, for example:

– indicate

– suggest

– record

– reflect

– demonstrate

During the course of research, you end up reading a lot in addition to all the writing. This is when I usually notice words that are awesome that I should be using.

Here’s a short list of some my favorites. I like them because they sound very “scholarly” and if you use them in popular writing or spoken in casual conversation, you usually come off as a snooty ass (or maybe British).

– aforementioned

– whilst

– heretofore

– foregoing

– prodigious

I also didn’t have the guts to title a chapter or a section “On the ______ “. Putting the “on” there is pretty sweet.

What are some of your favorite words or phrases?


7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2007 6:22 pm

    Constrain! Or some version of constrain. I subconsciously have titles like this:

    Amazing thermochronologic study of some awesome place: New constraints on the exhumations of blah blah.

    Other favorites of mine:


    I’ve always wanted to work “jive” into a paper. I find myself using it in informal talks all the time…this doesn’t jive with that, etc….I suppose it wouldn’t make my paper acceptance rate any worse.

  2. Trinifar permalink
    November 29, 2007 7:21 pm

    “These ideas are orthogonal.”

    “The epistomological foundations of ….”

    And “supercilious” just plain is fun to say if not to be.

  3. magma permalink
    November 30, 2007 7:39 am

    Seriously, what is it with geologists and ‘constrain’? It took me months and dozens of papers before I got used to reading it.

  4. November 30, 2007 9:05 am

    I think it reflects the mid-point of the average study. Especially from my work, I mean to answer some tectonic question, but usually the first step with the data is that it puts broad constraints on some set of tectonic processes. Then things get narrowed down. Plus it has a temporal connotation, which for a _chronologist is key.

    Oh, other favorite words are spatial and temporal. And of course syn_anything.

  5. November 30, 2007 9:51 am

    yes, ‘constrain’ is in my detrital zircon chapter several times.

    I was also able to insert ‘propensity’ into one of the papers.

    I did not, however, think of ‘supercilious’ … I need to look at up!

  6. November 30, 2007 11:38 am

    I always try to splash around synonyms for various things, so the writing (and reading!) doesn’t get all repetitive and redundant and repetitive. For example, instead of always saying “____ has a _____” or “_____ shows a ______,” I’ve got into saying “______ exhibits a _______” or “_______ possesses a ________” and the like. Similarly, instead of “_______ shows that _______,” I intersperse with “_______ demonstrates that ________” and “_______ exemplifies that ________,” etc.

    One thing that I remember from my high school English class turns out to have served me very well: exciting, attention-grabbing writing avoids any form of the verb “to be” whenever possible. Plenty of other verbs are available that can be implanted into a phrase and still make the same point. There’s nothing worse than having to read, over and over again, “This is ______, and that is ______,” etc.!

  7. December 1, 2007 1:32 pm

    Jerry…I also went through a lot of what you note above. ‘Exhibits’ can be very useful.

    I also forgot the put the word “dearth” somewhere…I like that one too.

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