Reviewing Our Greatest Hits: The Banned Word Controversy

Dec 04, 2019 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


It seems like every few years a journalist publishes an article complaining about teachers instructing students to replace descriptive words in their writing assignments in lieu of their more bland options. Arguing, “What’s wrong with the word ‘said?’” the journalist goes on to defend words such as “good,” “bad,” and “pretty” against more descriptive words such as “beneficial,” “appalling,” and “enchanting.” As an educator or parent, it can be challenging to decide which approach is correct. While there is nothing inherently wrong with “said,” “good,” “bad,” or “pretty,” there are important reasons for limiting them in our students’ writing. In the most recent “Best of” podcast, Andrew Pudewa and Julie Walker examine this “banned word controversy” in more detail and provide some assuring guidance for teachers and parents.

Just as there are professions that embrace different skill sets, there are writers who emphasize different writing styles. Journalists favor writing that conveys ideas simply and clearly. Technical writers focus on precision. Novelists embrace description and emotion. Students in many ways begin tabula rasa, that is, as a blank slate. Andrew and Julie describe the educator’s role in training up students to become competent thinkers, writers, and communicators. One of the ways instructors achieve this goal is to introduce their students to a vast array of words, phrases, and clauses that combine to create vivid ideas.

This podcast dates back to 2015 and was one of the earlier episodes released in The Arts of Language Podcast, but it is perhaps even more relevant today as our society’s vocabulary continues to shrink. Be sure to listen to it to learn more about why it is important to expose students to a wide variety of vocabulary and how implementing “banned words” can be integral to students’ success in writing.

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