Being an author is an awesome responsibility. . . I hope you realize that. The words you choose to include in your writing have a profound impact on your readers. Word choice matters. Word choice influences meaning. Obviously word choice is just one thing to consider with you write. However, careful attention to word choice is paramount!
Are any words neutral?
Could they be heard in a different way than you intend?
Are they loaded with history you might not readily think about?
Do you use the best word or just settle for the most obvious, or the easiest, one?
Are they relevant to your topic?
Do you look for word repetition? Over-using your favorite word doesn’t work.
Do they accurately reflect your thoughts and feelings?
What perspective are they not calling forth for your readers?
Do your words flow off your tongue and are they really what you mean?
Are they keeping your readers from missing the important points?
Have you used some strong verbs or colorful phrases that hook your reader? – Words that speak to the senses build images.
Could a Thesaurus assist you in making smarter word choices that clarify your intent?
Do you double-check your words for “misused words?”
Are you willing to accept the suggestions of an editor? – That would be smart!
Have you only put forth you own ideas rather than doing a 360 around the topic that suggests many points of view?
These are only a few questions that I often ask myself as a write. Thinking about your audience and their expectations will help you make decisions about word choice. Word choice is a trait that shows the power of our language. I often will brainstorm word alternatives with other authors.
I’ve mentioned this before, and it is worth repeating. After you have written a page or two… let your writing rest. In other words, put it away for 24 hours, then go back and read aloud what you have written. I often will choose different words as I edit and sometimes the time-lapse will re-inspire me to come up with something completely different.
“Let the meaning choose the word.” ~ George Orwell
Be careful when using words you are unfamiliar with. Look at how they are used in context and check their dictionary definitions. It is important that the words you use be precise and that they express your ideas clearly. It is also important that the words you use are varied, so that you aren’t using the same words again and again.
Take care when using a Thesaurus. Each word listed as a synonym for the word you’re looking up may have its own unique connotations or shades of meaning. Double-check with a dictionary to be sure the synonym you are considering really fits what you are trying to say.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” ~ Mark Twain
With good word choice, the writer creates a mental picture for the reader by using words that are specific, accurate and descriptive. Slang, jargon, euphemisms, colloquialisms, contractions and clichés are out! Watch out for words that give your writing an air of your own biased judgments. Avoid superfluous or unnecessary words.
Trim the fat. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
Big words don’t necessarily make for good reading. Your advanced vocabulary is fine if it comes naturally to you, and when used correctly in an appropriate context.
Reading what you have written aloud can help you strengthen your style and maintain your voice. As you read, your voice will often break when you locate awkward phrasing, or short choppy sentences, or long strings of words that don’t mean a whole lot. Ask someone to read what you have written to you. Often you will hear what you don’t see, and having someone else read your writing puts a new “voice” behind your ideas.
Writing sometimes feels like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. Think about your readers and the most convincing approach to those readers as you put your ideas into writing. Your words should dazzle your reader’s mind. Choose them well.
BONUS Article: Using a Thesaurus to Choose the Right Words
Copyright © 2011 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com
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