One Word Makes a Huge Difference In Written Expression (NAPLAN, Selective Tests & Scholarship Tests)

I correct and give feedback to a lot of written expression pieces. Many of the creative writing and argumentative writing pieces are done by students vying for a coveted spot in a selective school or sitting an exam to obtain a hard-to-get scholarship offer.

This is one sentence I read recently (and was written by a student on our free practice writing app).

The clouds floated in the storm.

It seems ok…doesn’t it? There’s no spelling mistake and it flows well (and that’s where some tutors would be happy to just tick it off).

But, there is something seriously wrong with it—word choice. When your child is doing their written expression test, competing against 4,000 – 10,000 students (in Selective Schools and Scholarship exams) and 1 million students (in the case of NAPLAN). Every word that is selected, counts.

At Exam Success we’re not happy just to tick off on average sentences because we really really want your child to improve their writing (see email below from thrilled parents after their son was accepted into Brisbane State High School – a selective school in QLD).


So… getting back to that sentence, “The clouds floated in the storm” is average and to be a standout, it should be “The clouds collided in the storm”.

Look… it was just one word that was changed, but that one word made all the difference.

It changed a sentence from mediocre to one that could get an A+. Why? Because clouds in storms are scary—they do not just float gently, they collide.

Word choice and how to “show” your writing in a stand-out way are just a few of the classes we cover in Writing Club’s 96 masterclass videos—which take your child’s writing from just average or below, to incredible.

Let’s see more examples of word choice and how being selective can pay off for your child in their selective school writing test or scholarship written expression.

Here are another 5 examples on how your written expression can be enhanced just by the addition or change of one word:

Written Expression Improved Example 1:

Sentence: I ran and was so excited.
What’s wrong with the word choice and how to improve it? The word ‘ran’ doesn’t generate a feeling of excitement and using the word ‘raced’ would convey the same meaning but create the feeling of ‘excitement’
Improved sentence: I raced and was so excited.

Written Expression Improved Example 2:

Sentence: The rose was red.
What’s wrong with the word choice and how to improve it? Like most sentences with word choice issues, there’s nothing that obviously wrong but the word ‘red’ seems plain. Let’s describe it as ‘blood red’. The addition of ‘blood’ can also act as a symbol to foreshadow a story about a crime being committed.
Improved sentence: The rose was blood red.

Written Expression Improved Example 3:

Sentence: The rocket flew into the air.
What’s wrong with the word choice and how to improve it? The word ‘flew’ reminds me of a plane or a bird flying in the air. The word ‘flew’ doesn’t do a rocket justice because a rocket, to me, is about power and fire. Let’s use the word ‘shot’ instead. The word ‘shot’ conveys speed and power—all qualities we think about when someone says the word ‘rocket’
Improved sentence: The rocket shot into the air.

Written Expression Improved Example 4:

Sentence: Jane struggled over the slippery rocks.
What’s wrong with the word choice and how to improve it? Nothing’s really wrong with it but changing the word from ‘struggled’ to ‘clambered’ helps the reader better visualize what’s happening. ‘Clambered’ means to move slowly with your hands and feet whereas ‘struggling’ doesn’t have the visualization that someone is using both their hands and feet. Furthermore, ‘struggled’ is a more general and broader term while ‘clambered’ gives a sense that someone is struggling, but we know specifically that they’re required to use their hands and feet to manoeuvre successfully.
Improved sentence: Jane clambered over the slippery rocks.

Written Expression Improved Example 5:

Sentence: When you walked into the foyer, you were face-to-face with a giant statue of gold.
What’s wrong with the word choice and how to improve it? It’s a clear sentence but the gold statute must be quite important (if it’s being mentioned in the story). Why not describe it? That way the person gets an idea of what the tenants in the building are like. Let’s add the word ‘ostentatious’—Ostentatious means ‘attention seeking’ and ‘in an attempt to be noticed’. The word ostentatious will also complement the “giant” statue of “gold”. We’ll also have to change the word “a” to “an” as ostentatious starts with a vowel.
Improved sentence: When you walked into the foyer, you were face-to-face with an ostentatious giant statue of gold.

If there’s one tip to pass on to your child for their crucial test, it’s this—be selective with the words you choose in your written expression. One word makes a huge difference when your child is competing with 4,000+ students.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to leave a comment! I read each comment personally!

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