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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Choosing the right words

How do I choose the right word?

This question is from +John Ward. This is an interesting one and one I really have to think about. I mean we all think about this. We don't want to use words that sound fake or forced, yet we want a powerful word. What words work?

I saw this exercise on this blog. It really made sense and hit home with me. Try doing this as a side exercise before writing or during or just when you're bored. It's pretty hard. Look at a picture or think of a situation or theme. Then write about it without using "TO BE" at all. Do not use is or was. It's hard but it definitely strengthens your writing.

An example, It is a sunny day. Now writing is without the word, is. The sun blazed high in the sky. You can just imagine and see the difference. It gives just that one sentence a feeling and you can actually picture it. Obviously you'll have to use to be at times but changing up some sentences without it changes the feel and improves writing.

Another thing that I think helps is always having a thesaurus around. I know when I write I set my desk up and put a thesaurus next to me. I'll write the word, mad and then open up the thesaurus and like the word, livid or irate better. I love using a thesaurus. I do find that at times you have to be careful. You don't want to start adding in words that don't really make sense.

Don't repeat words like crazy. Through people reading my novel, they keep telling me I use smirk too much. I never noticed it before they pointed out. Once you use a strong word don't use it again for a while. It won't be as strong anymore and loose it's wow factor. Try to limit words and don't repeat them.

Another thing that I find strengthens word choices is adding in imagery. Similes, metaphors and personification also create strong words. Pick the right ones though. So instead of saying something like, She sang like an old cat. Say something like, When Laura sang, she sounded like a cat sliding down a chalk board. The example is from here. You can imagine it now. Create these visuals make the word and sentence choices make more sense.

Here are some good examples that I have found to make sentences more powerful...

  • George has been working at the same automobile factory six days a week, ten hours a day, for the past twelve years.
    • George felt as worn out as the elbows on his work shirt.
    •  George felt as worn out as the rusted Impala that carried him to work every day.
    • George felt worn out and useless--just another broken fan belt, a burst radiator hose, a stripped wing nut, a discharged battery.
 You can see from the changes in the sentence how much more imagery you get. You can understand his hard day. You feel like he's stuck in a rut or tired of working these long hours. Just changing that one sentence you create feelings and a connection to the character.


  1. It was really good to learn something new from Taylor's post. I mean--What an informative post by Taylor.

    1. Thanks! Yeah I think the exercises I found were pretty cool. There's tons of info out there!


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