The Importance of Wording

In addition to making sure we're selecting the correct or most appropriate word or phrase, we also need to make sure it's being used in a way the reader will understand. Tone, diction, and syntax (word order) influence how a reader interprets a text. Consider this example: You recently got a new job and are very excited. You want to send two emails letting people know. The first person you want to tell is your best friend. The second person is your current boss. How would those emails differ? If you write in a very formal tone to your friend, they may think you're not excited about the new job. Even worse, they could think you're upset with them for some reason. Alternately, if you use an informal tone with your boss, they may consider you unprofessional. The message may ultimately be the same, but the tone is very different. Review this advice on using tone, diction, and syntax to create an appropriate message.

The Importance of Wording

Establishing the proper tone, choosing appropriate words, and using varied sentence structure improves academic writing.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish between an objective and a subjective tone in writing.

Key Takeaways

Key Points
  • Tone is important in all writing. It conveys the author ‘s attitude towards the topic.
    Diction (word choice) and syntax (writing style) influence tone.
  • In academic writing, the tone should be formal and objective. The purpose of academic writing is to engage in a neutral rather than a subjective (or personal) dialog with the reader.
  • The audience for a piece of writing should always be considered when establishing tone. In academic writing, the audience is assumed to be a general unknown reader who does not necessarily have an in-depth knowledge of the topic. Therefore, all information must be clearly explained so that a general reader can follow it.
Key Terms
  • diction: A writer's distinctive choice of words.
  • connotation: The wide array of positive and negative associations a word or phrase evoke in the reader.
  • denotation: The literal or dictionary meaning of a word or phrase.
  • tone: The writer's attitude towards the subject and the audience, especially as influenced by diction and syntax.
  • syntax: The way in which words and phrases are put together.


Writing with variety can make your writing distinctive and interesting. This can be achieved by using varied syntax, or sentence structure. Writing consistently short sentences can make your writing sound choppy. Using longer, more complex sentences can make your writing difficult to read and may bog the reader down. Additionally, sentence structure within a sentence can impact your reader's response. While you don't want to use too much variety in your sentences, knowing different ways to structure sentences is important. For example, here are a few different ways to begin your sentences:

  • Prepositional phrase: Out of necessity, the nonprofit animal society held its first fundraising event this year.
  • Sentence connective: Many organizations struggle with attendance for a new fundraising event. But the nonprofit animal society had tremendous success with their first pet show.
  • Appositive: A noted botanist, Jane Doe was named a Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America in 2013.
  • Adverbial clause: Suddenly, Jane Doe found herself among the most famous botanists of her generation.

Academic writing should demonstrate an understanding of how to write effectively. When done correctly, using short and long sentences that start differently adds professionalism to your writing.


Syntax focuses primarily on sentence structure, while diction concerns the words contained in sentences. In academic writing, choosing the proper words impacts your argument as well as your credibility. Knowing the difference between the denotation, or literal meaning of words, and connotation, or the wide range of thoughts and impressions made by words or phrases, will improve academic writing. You may be unaware of the connotation of some words in addition to their literal meaning. Strengthen your diction by ensuring you know the full range of meaning of the words you use. Avoid overly informal diction as well, as these words are often less specific or simply not appropriate for academic writing.


The denotation of home is a location where a person or group resides.

The connotation of home varies from person to person. Most people view home with comfort, security, fond memories or affection.

Think of the difference in the words "domicile" vs. "home". Both words mean "place of residence" in the dictionary but they communicate very different feelings. Domicile might be the best choice of term for a paper in law or real estate classes. Home might be a better choice for a sociology or childhood education paper.


Writing with variety can aid in developing the appropriate tone and hold your reader's attention. Tone shows the writer's attitude towards the subject and the audience. The writer's tone can influence the reader's response to the writing. In academic writing, it's important to maintain an appropriate tone throughout. Writers can do this by paying attention to syntax and diction.

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Last modified: Sunday, January 8, 2023, 12:14 PM