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Does banning ‘boring’ words from classrooms encourage creativity or create confusion?




In an effort to encourage livelier, more expressive writing, teachers from elementary to high school are urging students to use a broader, more eclectic range of words in their writing.
In an effort to encourage livelier, more expressive writing, teachers from elementary to high school are urging students to use a broader, more eclectic range of words in their writing.
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In the world of broadcast journalism, we’re taught to be as clear and concise as possible when we write copy for air.

“Write conversationally, like you’d speak” is a phrase often uttered by journalism professors who want needless words removed from news copy, because every second counts. But in other classrooms across the U.S., teachers are telling their kids the exact opposite.

In an effort to encourage livelier, more expressive writing, teachers from elementary to high school are urging students to use a broader, more eclectic range of words in their writing. Staples like ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ and ‘said’ are being banned from classrooms in lieu of other words like ‘phenomenal,’ ‘atrocious’ and ‘exclaimed.’

How much does it actually help? Some teachers suggest that once students begin to use the alternate words, they’re astonished at how fast their vocabulary expands. But others have expressed concerns that banning words could lead to confusion, or that students will just pick a word that looks cool without really knowing whether it’s an adequate synonym for the word they want to replace.

Do you think students should be encouraged to ditch certain frequently used words in lieu of more creative ones? What are the potential advantages and disadvantages to teaching this kind of writing? Do you think it will help or hurt students more in the long run?

Guest

Leilen Shelton, middle school teacher at Mariner’s Christian School in Costa Mesa and author of “Banish Boring Words” (Scholastic, 2009)