Hagerty profiled teachers who are deducting from students' grades if they spot so much as one offending "dead word," encouraging students to swap in more colorful language provided by middle school English teacher Leilen Shelton's best-selling in their stead.
There has been backlash. On Slate, warned that a "reasonable pedagogical technique" he recalled from his own elementary school education had morphed into "perverse and deadly totalitarianism," writing in particular about the classification of said2020欧洲杯时间 as a "dead word."
2020欧洲杯时间Anyone who has ever had to read a slush pile or a self-published autobiography will thunder, cry, retort, rejoin, or fume: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Replacing the word said with "colorful" or "lively" synonyms is a ubiquitous symptom of bad writing.
He was not alone in his defense of said. One Journal reader suggesting a new substitution: "You cannot say 'said,' the instructor nitwitted." And to many, avoiding symptoms of say and said is the sign of good writing, not bad. Editor Julia Rubiner explains this idea fully here, and Georgia Scurletis, sheffieldwind.com director of curriculum development, also discusses the debate over this little word in the context of student writing.
But swapping out said isn't the only problem created by the elimination of "dead words." When presented with lists of synonyms, student usage errors become an issue. More often than not, students will choose synonyms that "sound cool," but don't fit the context they're using them in, a phenomenon writer James Harbeck has dubbed "synonym-itis" (also called "thesaurus flipping").
Defending the "dead words" approach on , Banish Boring Words2020欧洲杯时间 author Leilen Shelton outlined a distinction between the practice of thesaurus-flipping and the lexical expansion the lists in her book offer. She reminded listeners that her lists are designed for students who recognize the words on them but "just can't retrieve them." Her lists, and even the stringent requirement that her students avoid "dead words," is designed to prod them into better writing.
Shelton described her "best writers" as students who are "avid readers" and whose parents are articulate themselves. It's the students whose vocabularies are more limited whom these lists serve. Unfortunately, those are the same students most likely to stumble when deciding whether the word maul, presented on Shelton's list of "Verbs for Movement/Fast," might be a fitting substitute for run.
Perhaps the best approach is to assign students the task of learning more colorful words before they begin to write. As an example of how this might work, we've prepared a vocabulary list based on a subset of Shelton's words for writing essays: "Words Middle Schoolers Should Use for Comparing and Contrasting Texts."
Using the practice tab, students can answer questions that help them fill in holes in their understandings of these words' meaning and appropriate usage. If they're having trouble understanding one or two in particular, the learning resources of the sheffieldwind.com Dictionary — a friendly word blurb, hundreds of sentence examples, a word family diagram, and synonym and antonym lists — are just a click away.
Teachers might also consider targeting overused words by pasting student writing into the Vocbulary.com list maker. Sort by occurrences to see which words are cropping up most often. Scurletis describes this in depth in "Better Off Banished? A guide to scrubbing student writing of overused words." It's a great way to give students a quick view of any word — whether dead or still kicking — they tend to overuse.
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