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Spelling and vocabulary

Learn about how to improve spelling and vocabulary in your writing.

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Why is vocabulary important?

The APA Style manual encourages writers to “be deliberate in your word choices, making certain that every word means exactly what you intend” (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 113). Often, words will have more than one meaning, and when the specific meaning you have in mind is not clear from the words you choose throughout sentences, your writing may become difficult to understand. When in doubt, “choose words and phrases carefully, and specify the intended meaning if there is potential for ambiguity” (APA, 2020, p. 114).

When deciding what words to use, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the dictionary definition of this word match my intended meaning?
  • Would a member of the general academic community require a dictionary to understand this word?
  • Am I comfortable using this word or words? Am I familiar with this language in other situations?
  • Would I use this word to express or explain this idea in a verbal conversation with my audience?


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).