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University of Newcastle Library guides

Common feedback comments and what they mean: Don't use that writing strategy

This guide lists some common feedback comments and explains what they mean.

Don't use that writing strategy

What is an idiom?
Idioms are words, phrases, or expressions that are
1)     grammatically incorrect such as the expression, “Long time, no see!”, or
2)     their meaning cannot be taken literally, as in, “It's raining cats and dogs!”
We avoid writing idioms in academic writing because they are not formal in tone and can cause confusion if you do not understand the idiom.


What is Rhetoric?
Rhetoric is using language to persuade or impress the reader, but is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.
We avoid rhetoric in academic writing because we use evidence and facts to argue our case, not persuasion and extravagant language.


What is high modality language 

The word modality means how certain we are about something.
 High modality language is the selection of words we use to express to the reader how absolutely certain we are of something.
Example of high modality language:  Age was completely irrelevant in the results of this survey.
Example of moderate low modality language: It appears likely that age was not a relevant factor in the results of the survey.
Statements written in moderate low modality suggest to the reader a reasoned and objective argument. High modality opinion can be viewed as persuasive and subjective.


What is hyperbole?
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement or claim that is not meant to be taken literally.
Examples:    I have said this a million times.

                     You could have knocked me over with a feather.



What is a rhetorical question?

A rhetorical question is a question that you ask without expecting an answer. It is usually used in writing to make a point or to persuade the reader. We avoid rhetorical questions in academic writing because we use evidence and facts to argue our case, not by asking your reader a question they cannot answer.

Example: The conditions for ANZAC troops at Gallipoli were dangerous and challenging. It was difficult to find a location that was safe from enemy fire (Macloud, 2004) as there was a constant threat from sniper fire and shrapnel (Hamilton, 2004). How would the troops survive these treacherous conditions?

What is imagery?
Imagery is a technique used in poetry and prose that uses words to create visual pictures in the readers’ minds.
Example: ‘He remembered that day of his preliminary interview—sunny June, with the air full of flower scents and the plick-plock of cricket on the pitch’.
From ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ by James Hilton.
While this technique is appropriate for poetry and prose, it is not appropriate for academic writing.



What is a metaphor?
A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that is not literally true, but helps to explain an idea or make a comparison.
Example: He is the black sheep of the family.
                 She’s a walking encyclopedia.



What is irony?
Irony is the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to imply the opposite of what the writer/speaker would normally mean. It is generally used in writing to emphasise a point.
Examples: as clear as mud, smooth as sandpaper, friendly as a coiled rattlesnake.


Avoid these types of expressions in academic writing.