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OASIS Writing Skills

Scholarly Voice:
Word Choice (Diction)

This guide includes instructional pages on scholarly voice.


When writing for faculty and your peers at Walden, you will be addressing a formal audience and you will want to use scholarly language. This means you should use simple and concise language, and eliminate unnecessary information. According to APA (2020), "Say only what needs to be said in your writing" (p. 113).

Tips on Word Choice

  • Avoid casual language. Eliminate contractions ("can't," "won't"), metaphors or figures of speech ("her writing was as clear as mud"), slang expressions or cliche phrases ("she'll get over it"), and excessive use of adjectives and qualifiers ("very," "major").
  • Use personal pronouns carefully ("you," "we," "us," "our"). Generally, you also want to avoid using the personal "I" in an academic paper unless you are writing a reflection paper or are referring to research that you have conducted.
  • Use shorter sentences. Do not use big words for the sake of sounding scholarly (i.e., "The individuals utilized their writing utensils in order to complete the learning tools in the learning institution"). It would be easier to instead write, "The students used pencils to fill out the answers on the test at school."
  • Be consistent with your labels. Call people what they want to be called. Use gender inclusive language ("police officer" rather than "policeman"). Avoid placing gender identifiers in front of nouns ("male nurse," "female doctor").

Word Choice (Diction) Video

Note that this video was created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

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