Will the phrase “stuck out” please go away?

Here are six better alternatives

I’ve noticed this for quite a while now. Have you? I have several student writers who use the term “stick out” or “stuck out” in their writing in an unusual way. Here are some examples:

  • Several ideas really stuck out to me as I read the story.
  • The biggest idea that stuck out to me in the book was the ending.
  • Many details stick out to me when I write memoirs.
Get rid of the phrase "stuck out" in student writing

Yes, talking about how things stick out is fine. It’s colloquial. It’s informal. It’s idiomatic.

Eliminate the phrase "stuck out" in student writing

However, in formal writing, especially academic writing, it’s imprecise and inappropriately casual.

Eliminate the phrase "stuck out" in student writing

After all, things don’t stick out.

Instead, here are six things they actually do:

  1. They make an impression.
  2. They are significant.
  3. They assume prominence.
Eliminate the phrase "stuck out" in student writing

4. They rise above.

5. They take precedence.

6. They reveal their importance.

I plan to offer these six alternatives the next time I read about things sticking out to my students. Let’s rephrase those phrases at the top of this post with these more precise alternative phrasings.

  • Several ideas took precedence in my mind as I read the story.
  • The biggest idea that revealed its importance to me in the book was the ending.
  • Many details make an impression on me when I write memoirs.
Get rid of the phrase "stuck out" in student writing

Writer’s workshop is starting up next week with my juniors. When I notice this pesky little phrase “sticking up” in my students’ writing, I’ll make sure to offer them some better options… at least for their more formal writing projects.

Have you noticed this usage issue? How do you approach eliminating it in student writing? Feel free to leave a comment below or on my contact page.


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Published by marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

2 thoughts on “Will the phrase “stuck out” please go away?

  1. Oh, I am definitely guilty of asking this as a question in my classroom: “What stuck out to you during the chapter?”
    It is difficult for students to differentiate between what’s conversational and what is formal in their writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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