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02 January 2013

Writing and Vocabulary: Using "Good" and "Bad"

by Rob San Miguel

Some of my foreign students often use the adjectives “bad” and “good” to mean many things. For example, “Teacher, the movie was bad.  We have bad weather today.  She is a good person.  This phone is good.” In speaking, it is all right to keep things simple and use “bad” or “good;” however, it is different in writing.  For instance, if you use “good” many times in your essay, your writing becomes too simplistic, redundant and less compelling. 

For example:
I attended a premiere of the new John Smith film.  Before the screening, we were treated to a good dinner by the producers of the film. The 5-course meal was very good but unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about the new movie.  It was bad, which surprises many critics because it was directed by David Doe.  Sadly, this film may turn out to be Doe’s last directorial work.  The director has been in and out of hospital because of his bad health.


If you replace the words “good” and “bad” with specific words, then your real intentions becomes clear. Your readers do not have to guess.

I attended a premiere of the new John Smith film.  Before the screening, we were treated to a good delightful dinner by the producers of the film. The 5-course meal was very good excellent but unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about the new movie.  It was bad, which surprises many critics because it was directed by David Doe.  Sadly, this film may turn out to be Doe’s last directorial work.  The director has been in and out of hospital because of bad severe health problems.  [Bad in the sentence “It was bad” was not replaced because that is the exact word that the writer wants to use. The movie was just “bad,” not awful, terrible, or dreadful. ]

Before using “good” or “bad,” look for a more specific word first.  Below are the many synonyms of “good” and “bad.”  However, make sure the word that you will choose is appropriate to the situation.  Pay attention more on usage than the literal meaning.

For example:  Bad = severe or life-threatening
When you talk about the weather, such as “We will have bad weather tonight,” it is better to use “severe.”  If you use “life-threatening,” the intensity will change.   Choose the right word.  I always find Merriam-Webster's Online Learner's Dictionary quite useful when checking word usage.  Look at their entry on the word “severe.”

J  GOOD meaning High Quality
High-Quality, Good quality, First-class, First-rate, Superior, Fine, Excellent
Example: The food was good high quality

J  GOOD meaning Decent:  
Decent, Respectable, Moral, Upright, Virtuous, Noble, Worthy, Blameless,
Example: The young child is very good decent.

J  GOOD meaning Enjoyable: 
Enjoyable, Pleasant, Nice, Lovely, Satisfactory, Agreeable, Delightful
Example: The movie was good delightful.

J  GOOD meaning Skilful: 
Skilful, Able, Proficient, Accomplished, Talented, Expert, Skilled, Capable, Clever
Example: Our new teacher is very good proficient.

J  GOOD meaning Helpful: 
Helpful, Sound, Beneficial, Advantageous, Reliable, Useful
Examples:  The new guy in the office is quite good helpful.  / Vegetables are good beneficial for you.

J  GOOD meaning Nice: 
Nice, Fine, Lovely, Pleasant, Fair
Examples: How do you feel today?  Do you feel good fine? / Giving your mother roses on Valentine’s Day is such a good lovely gesture.

J  GOOD meaning Well-behaved: Well-behaved, Well-mannered, Polite, Obedient, Well-brought-up
Example: Henry is a good well-behaved person.

L BAD meaning Awful: 
Awful, Terrible, Dreadful, Appalling, Shocking, Ghastly, Horrific, Dire
Example: What the police did to the man was very bad appalling.

L BAD meaning Evil: 
Evil, Wicked, Corrupt, Immoral, Depraved, Debauched, Unscrupulous, Ruthless, Merciless, Cruel, Base, Shameless
Examples:  Voters must be meticulous.  They should make sure that they will not vote for a bad corrupt candidate. / They are bad unscrupulous businessmen.

L BAD meaning Poor-quality: 
Poor, Inferior, Deficient, Flawed, Faulty, Defective, Substandard, Imperfect, Shoddy, Abysmal
Examples:  The customer complained because the store sold her a bad defective product. / You were fired because your work was bad shoddy.

L BAD meaning Naughty: 
Naughty, Disobedient, Badly behaved, Troublesome, Wayward, Mischievous, Unmanageable, Unruly, Wilful, Rude
Example: The students in my class are very bad unruly. / I used to be bad disobedient when I was young.

L BAD meaning Severe:  
Serious, Severe, Grave, Critical, Life-threatening, Acute
Examples:  We will have bad severe weather tonight. / The old man’s condition is bad life-threatening.

L BAD meaning Regretful [Feeling]:  
Regretful, Sorry, Penitent, Remorseful, Ashamed, Apologetic, Guilty, Repentant, Sad
Examples:  I feel bad sorry for what happened. / Do you feel bad guilty?

L BAD meaning Unhealthy: 
Unhealthy, Damaging, Injurious, Ruinous, Dangerous, Harmful
Example:  Smoking is bad harmful to your health.

L BAD meaning Difficult: 
Adverse, Difficult, Unhappy, Unpleasant, Distressing, Harsh
Example:  The situation in the meeting was bad distressing.  The officials argued endlessly.

L BAD meaning Rotten:  
Rotten, Off, Decayed, Decaying, Decomposing, Putrid, Mouldy, Stale, Rancid
Example: Don’t eat that spaghetti. It’s bad rotten. / There’s something bad off about this picture. / You smell bad rancid.

NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS POST? IS IT BAD OR GOOD? BE SPECIFIC AND, GULP, KIND, PLEASE. 

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