When you are writing and looking for some variety, you will often replace a noun with a pronoun. However, you must be clear what noun the pronoun refers to. Because you’re doing the writing, the reference is clear. But look at it again from your reader’s perspective and you may find you haven’t been clear. Examples:
Original: Yalom writes about death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. This forms the basis of his theory of psychotherapy.
Question: What does this refer to? Death? Freedom? Isolation? Meaninglessness. Rewrite to make it clear what you want to say.
Rewrite: Yalom writes about death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. These four ideas form the basis of his theory of psychotherapy.
Original: The authors studied personal qualities of master therapists. They focus on a common factors approach.
Question: What does they refer to? Researchers? Personal qualities? Master therapists? Again, rewrite for clarity.
Rewrite: The authors studied personal qualities of master therapists. The researchers found master therapists focus on a common factors approach.
It is easy to confuse one word for another that looks or sounds similar. Here is a list of troublesome words.
then vs. than
Then is about time: We did this then we did that. Than is about comparisons or exceptions: Our is better than theirs.
elicit vs.illicit Elicit is to provoke or draw out: The music will elicit an emotional response. Illicit is about something illegal: Violating confidentiality is an illicit action.
conscious vs. conscience Conscious is the state of being aware: They were conscious of time passing. Conscience is that internal sense of right or wrong: The student’s conscience was troubled by their desire to copy answers.
relative vs. relevant Relative is about a relationship: Their understanding was limited relative to their parents’ understanding. Relevant is something closely connected or appropriate to a topic: Music is relevant to most young people’s lives.
adolsecents vs. adolescence Adolescents are young people not yet considered adults: Most adolescents are vitally interested in sex. Adolescence is the period when people are adolescents. My client reported a difficult adolescence as their parents divorced while the client was in high school.
roll vs. role Roll is something that has been rolled: The cinnamon rolls were tasty. Role is a part someone plays either in life or on the stage: Their major role was as a parent and caregiver.
compliment vs. complement A compliment is something nice said about something: The client considered my comments as a compliment. Complement is when something completes something else: The rustic red wine was a perfect complement to the beef stew.
A tenet is a principle or belief: A good relationship is a tenet of most counseling theories.
A tenant is someone who rents a space to live or do business: The landlord considered the therapist a good tenant.
passed vs. past Passed is a verb about movement: Our car passed theirs. Past is something that is gone: We cannot live our lives in the past.
dominate vs. dominant Dominate is a verb meaning to control or strongly influence: Socialization often teaches men to dominate a conversation. Dominant is to be the most important or powerful: The gene for brown eyes is dominant over the genes for other eye colors.
To pick is to choose something: We picked the blue cards.
To pique is to stimulate: The readings piqued our interest in existentialism.
An anthropomorphism is when we attribute human characteristics to something that is non-human, or even non-animate. It is not unusual to see anthropomorphisms, but you should avoid them, whenever possible. Examples:
A theorist can argue, a theory can’t.
A writer can explain, a paper can’t.
A researcher can examine something, a study can’t.
Parallelism is a fancy word for the writing principle of expressing similar ideas in a similar form.
Problematic: We will run in the morning, hike in the afternoon, and be sleeping at night. Better: We will run in the morning, hike in the afternoon, and sleep at night.
Problematic: The list of requirements includes: humor, being empathetic, compassion, knowing about yourself, and intelligence. Better: The list of requirements includes: humor, empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and intelligence.