Word Choice And Why It Matters

Wannabe Pride welcomes guest blogger Jocelyn Crawley! Jocelyn is a 30-year-old writer. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading subversive literature and drinking coffee. In addition to winning several regional and school-sponsored writing competitions, she self-published her first novel, Erudition, in April of 2007. She is currently completing the manuscript for her second novel.  

There’s something pleasantly unsettling about stumbling upon unfamiliar words when you read a web article or literary work–for me, anyway. Each time I run into a term that’s never crossed my path before, a somewhat disconcerting curiosity dominates my psyche until the word is thoroughly defined and understood.

Although you may have found the previous paragraph interesting, you could also be asking yourself an important question: “How is any of that relevant to you as a writer?” I love these types of pragmatic interrogations, so I’ll try to provide an advantageous answer in the following sentence as well as the paragraphs to come. Learning new words is important and ideal for everyone–and perhaps writers especially. This is the case for several reasons, including the fact that writers have a tendency to utilize the same words over and over again. Once you develop a loyal fan base that is eager to read your new works and make note of your intellectual progress, they will likely be disappointed to find the same $50 words emerging over and over again. I certainly would be. In fact, I find myself irritated with my own writing when the same damn words (generally precipitate and indigenous) resurface. The repetition and redundancy engender an ineffable irritation that is perhaps best described in terms of flabbergasted shame. I know there are other words out there, and yet my feeble mind keeps wandering back to the terms with which it is most familiar.

As a self-published author, I am aware of some of the challenges that people who don’t take the traditional publishing route can experience as they attempt to build their brand. In my humble opinion, one of the greatest challenges is the attempt to prove that one’s work is credible. And while there are a plethora of things self-published writers can do in order to build and increase credibility, using learned language is oftentimes particularly effective. In addition to showing your readership and prospective publishers that you take the time to find the most apposite words to express a character’s thought or the color of the carpet, building your vocabulary can preclude you from one of the most disappointing and mentally stagnating experiences known to the writer: boredom with one’s work.

When I decided to publish my first novel (Erudition), I was unaware that the title would be a relatively obscure term that many would have to look up in order to grasp the overarching theme of the book. Yet as I began to synthesize the plot and give the characters shape and substance, I realized that this title was arrantly appropriate for many reasons. First, the two main characters of the novel were both very well-read individuals who had extensive knowledge about the literary world. In fact, one of the two is an English professor. And in addition to giving the book the type of learned structure and stature that comes from placing two exceptionally intelligent people on center stage, the acquisition of knowledge (both abstract and experiential) is a prevalent motif within the work. Clearly then, Erudition was an ideal title. It was only after I published the work that I realized the somewhat academic term I’d chosen for the title had a specific, dualistic power. Although some people found the title and scholarly words within the book stimulating and intellectually uplifting, others deemed it all a bit “too much.”  Irrespective of whether the language was deemed appropriate or over the top, the use of scholarly language generated substantive buzz.

These days, I’m thrilled to be running a blog that is dedicated to helping people (the public generally and writers specifically) increase their vocabularies in order to write more effectively. Lately, words such as “gimlet” and “anhedonic” have been subjected to a careful overview as I seek to provide my readers with a thorough explanation of their meaning and implications. Much care is given to seeking out all of the synonyms and antonyms that expand the reader’s understanding of the term’s signification so people will know how to effectively contextualize the words they opt to use. I have always felt-and still believe-that words have power. And when we use them with strategic precision, they acquire an insuperable efficacy that enables our readers to gain a better understanding of the concepts we’re attempting to convey.

Several days ago, I had a brief yet meaningful conversation with a gentleman on the train regarding how sad it is to see so many people embracing a monocultural mode of being and knowing when the 21st century has given rise to such a pleasantly postmodern multiculturalism that makes it safe and common for people of all backgrounds to interact with one another in equitable ways. In describing the modality of individuals who have chosen the former (and very limited) form of existence, I used the term myopic. But then-in recognizing that this word was not fully accurate in articulating the idea I was attempting to express-I stated that the term wasn’t quite right. Now, in reflecting on the actions and attitudes of people who prefer to surround themselves with individuals who are exactly like them rather than embracing the beauty indigenous to diversity and pluralism, I realize that the more fitting term would have been parochial. Indeed, these types of individuals have a narrow view of both external reality and their own subjective existence. And in being able to prove the aforementioned term out of my word bank, I’m much more effective in describing the paucity of their worldview.

Whether you’re simply seeking to prevent yourself from growing bored when drafting your next manuscript or want prospective publishers to know you mean business, utilizing a learned vocabulary is oftentimes the best way to accomplish your objective. If you’re ever interested in seeing old words used in new ways or simply want to add new terms to your already impressive word bank, be sure to visit my blog at www.wordhelps.com. Can’t wait to see you.

Best,

Jocelyn Crawley

www.wordhelps.com

Follow Jocelyn On Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jocelyn_Crawley

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