Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Word Usage For Writers

December has been great. You loved all the partying, the shopping, the baking, the family dinners, the programs at church and school. Right? But now you're tired. Bone tired. Still, it's time to get back to your writing world. 

But, if you're writing something new and doing it while you're tired, you risk becoming a lazy writer. Lazy writers use common words and when they want to emphasize them, they pop in a 'very' in front. That will tell my readers that I mean it. My character is not just shy, she's very shy. 'Very' is an adverb that is easily plucked out of thin air and applied with a smack to words like those in the list above. So easy but not the best choice in many cases. 

Look at the words suggested to use in the second column instead of the 'very ____' version. One word instead of two. One stronger word instead of two weaker ones. Stephen King said "The road to hell is paved with adverbs." I'm guessing a reader would not find the word 'very' on many pages of his books. 

How do you train yourself to use the better word instead of the weaker version with 'very' in front? One thing you can do is get in the habit of using (note that you must 'use' it, not decorate a shelf with it)  a thesaurus. There are many in bookstores to be purchased and online for free. One good website on the thesaurus usage will give you lots to think about. It would be well worth your time to check it out on a regular basis. The more you immerse yourself into word choices, the easier it becomes to use better words as you write. 

I'm sure some of you are shaking your head and thinking I don't have time for that. I need to devote all my writing time to writing. Ones who scoff at trying to better their word usage are probably the same ones who think writing exercises are to be flicked away like a pesky fly. All the exercises and reading about writing are what will help you grow as a writer. Set aside a certain amount of time each day, or week, to pursue these beneficial helps. It need not be hours; perhaps 15 minutes each day would still be helpful. We  all know that we fritter away 15 minutes doing other, fairly non-useful things every day. Why not put that 15 minutes to better use? 

Instead of my saying that this post is meant to be 'very helpful,' I could say 'this post is meant to be  
supportive or useful or constructive. 

If you write when you're tired like you probably are right now, go ahead but don't submit that piece right away. Let it simmer a few days, then go back and see what words you can change to be more meaningful. Take our those 'very' words if you have used them. 

As a quick exercise today, study the list above as a beginning to better word usage. 

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