First aid for your critical writing

First Aid for Writing: Band-aid Verbs

All of us who have to produce critical writing about literature, as you do in your three written assessments, tend to fall into dull and repetitious use of verbs.

Here are 10 verbs that you might add to your critical vocabulary to improve your style.  This kind of work can really lead to an better mark in the criterion that evaluates the way you express yourself — to say nothing of how far it will put you ahead of your university peers.

However, don’t kid yourself: you can’t just make a list and think it will get into your writing by osmosis.  You need to set yourself a goal: choose one or two of these and use it (or them) everywhere, in all your IB subjects. You may slip up on the precise way you use the word at times but eventually you’ll be distinguishing yourself by your “articulate,” “sophisticated” use of the language.  Here are the 10; you many know what many of them mean, but do you use them?

adumbrate: instead of ‘suggest,’ ‘hint,’ ‘imply,’ ‘forecast,’ ‘predict.’

characterize:  (Yes, you use it all the time when talking about literary charcters, but do you use it when talking about a writer’s particular style? as in ‘describe,’ ‘portray,’ ‘identify.’

contend:   instead of ‘argue’ or ‘assert.’

depict:  not a particularly exotic word but a bit more interesting than ‘show’ and a good variance from ‘illustrate’ or ‘describe.’

embody:  instead of ‘exemplify’ or ‘illustrate’ or ‘portray’

explicate:  a lot of what you do in Paper 1, for example, is explication; however, the word can be used for ‘explain,’ ‘clarify,’ or ‘interpret.’

imply:  maybe you already use it, but if you are like many people, you mix it up with infer; the first puts meaning in, the other draws meaning out: get them straight!

intimate:  yes, this is a verb, too and can be a lively substitute for ‘imply’ or ‘suggest.’

render: not commonly found in student writing but works well in place of ‘deliver,’ ‘submit,’ ‘translate,’ ‘give.’

validate:  ‘demonstrate,’ ‘support’ or ‘give value to.’ It has a scientific ring to it, but can also be used quite successfully in critical writing.
Good luck with it all!  As an examiner, I hope to recognize you by your verbs.

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