Words to describe tone and mood - Essay Writing

Words to describe tone and mood Can you see anything wrong with this paragraph?
The risk of damnation is made clear in Kyd’s “The Spanish Tragedy” by the use of a ghost from hell, called Revenge, who acts as a chorus to the play. This provides a formal framework which contrasts with the violent actions of the characters. There’s also something rather spooky about a ghost.
If you feel that the last sentence struck the wrong note, it is because the word ’spooky’ is inappropriate. But why? Isn’t it a perfectly good word? It probably is, but the problem is that it’s an informal word, the kind of word that might be used in conversation, but which jars with the formal tone required in an essay. You might also feel that it is a rather lightweight word. Up until that point the writer has achieved a good level of analysis, but the final sentence unintentionally trivializes the subject For a moment the writer takes his/her eye off the topic and makes a rather vague, colloquial point. It is important in writing an essay to strive for a fairly formal tone. Contractions such as didn’t, wasn’t and can’t are best avoided, as they tend to make an essay seem too relaxed and chatty. (We are, of course, aware that we have used them throughout this book, specifically as a way of achieving a certain degree of informality.) It is easy to see whether you have slipped into using words like these, but you might at times be unsure whether a word is formal enough for an essay, or perhaps too colloquial. We imagine that you are unlikely to use phrases like Carol Ann Duffy is a rectify cool poet, but if I doubt about a word or phrase, search for an alternative. A thesaurus will provide you with several alternatives for most words; your dictionary should tell you whether a word is slang or colloquial or archaic or whether you have made it up. A thesaurus or dictionary should also help you find the appropriate word with the right connotations.

Words to describe tone and mood

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What we are all seeking to achieve is a sensible but not stuffy tone to our writing, in part, the rules of sentence construction, including the points we have made about adding subordinate clauses to a sentence, will help you achieve this. But a reasonably wide choice and range of ordinary vocabulary is also essential. Oddly enough, however, a lot of university students make the mistake of veering in the other direction, using a vocabulary that is too pretentious, perhaps trying to echo or imitate the tone of the authors of the textbooks in their subject. This is not always done deliberately. It is the case that, in studying a subject, some of the vocabulary is silently absorbed, and that part of learning a subject is coming to terms with its specialist languages sometimes, however, this specialist language can become a kind of return cal smokescreen, the student hiding behind big words rather than using these to any good effect. Such a student might be trying to impress, but the result could be the very opposite.
Words to describe tone and mood
What we are suggesting is that you should write clearly, and as intelligently as you can, but there is no need to strain after an artificial degree of elevation or to pack your work with the latest jargon. To a large extent it is a matter of finding your own style, your own level. A large part of this is seeing just how simple a lot of good writing is. Initially you might feel unhappy with your style, but a little practice experimenting with some of the points we have made throughout this book will soon remedy that. Rapid progress with style can, in fact, be made quite easily. Often it is a matter of avoiding the pitfalls and then working on small details.
Here we can highlight two points. First, it is sensible to look out for cliches in your writing. A cliche is a trite expression, a phrase that has been used so much that it has become stale and lost any real effect. For example:
cool, calm and collected,
ripe old age
face the music
sadder but wiser
hard as a rock

The effect of phrases such as these is to deaden your writing and make it seem mechanical and uninteresting for the reader. We often turn to cliches because they are the first words that come into our head, or we have got stuck for a phrase for a moment. Writing, however, needs to be a word considered performance than this. The things to look out for, then, as you revise your work are dead areas of writing where you may be using a cliche. Occasionally cliches can help, precisely because they are familiar and can help clinch a point, but the ones listed above are very colloquial; they work wonderfully well in speech, but lack the sort of precision we usually want in writing. Words to describe tone and mood
The second point is both a tip and a summary of everything we have been saying in this section, it can sometimes seem difficult to pitch your writing at the right level and to work out if you are conveying your ideas clearly. A way of overcoming this is literally to have a reader in mind (for example, your mum or dad) and to focus on making sure that the person you have in mind can follow the threads of your argument. Your reader should be able to spot that you are hitting the right note and not, for example, showing off or writing just for yourself. Very often essays get tangled in knots because students forget that they are communicating to an audience; they are not teasing out a few points or ideas but seeking to inform, persuade and interest their readers. The key to this, as we have said, is control over the basic mechanics of writing: knowing how to write a sentence, how to punctuate, and using the right words.

Words to describe tone and mood

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