Using Language Well: Review Questions and Activities


  1. Explain the difference between communication and language.
  2. Explain the relationship between language and the way that humans perceive their worlds.
  3. Why should you use simple language in your speech?
  4. The use of concrete and precise language in your speeches helps prevent what sorts of problems?
  5. Give an example of a metaphor and explain how that metaphor functions to communicate a specific idea more clearly.
  6. What is alliteration?
  7. Why is personalized language important?
  8. What are some examples of types of sexist language and what is the impact of those examples?
  9. What are two problems associated with using exaggerated language in your speeches?
  10. Explain the types of powerless language most commonly used.
  11. Why shouldn’t you use clichés in your speech?
  12. Why is correct grammar important to good speech making?


  1. Speakers should avoid the use of sexist language. Consider the sexist words and phrases listed below and think of as many replacement words as you can.

    a. Bachelor’s Degree   b. Bogeyman    c. Brotherhood    d. Businessman

    e. Chairman    f. Forefather    g. Layman    h. Mailman

    i. Manmade    j. Repairman    k. Salesman    l. Female Doctor

  2. Using speeches from or, choose any speech from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, or Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and isolate one paragraph that you believe exemplifies a careful and effective use of language. Rewrite that paragraph as I did for my classes, using more common and less careful word choices. Compare the paragraphs to each other once you’re done, noticing the difference your changes in language make.
  3. Speakers should always remember that it’s rarely helpful to use a long word when a short word will do and that clichés should be avoided in speeches. Look at these common clichés, reworded using language that obstructs rather than clarifies, and see if you can figure out which clichés have been rewritten.a. A piece of pre-decimal currency conserved is coinage grossed.b. The timely avian often acquires the extended soft-bodied invertebrate.

    c. A utensil often used for writing is more prodigious than a certain long-edged weapon.

    d. Let slumbering members of the canine variety remain in slumber

    e. An animal of the avian variety resting on one’s palm is more valuable than double that amount in one’s appendage

most often used for tactile feedback.


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