2 Tips on the Effective Use of Words
Blogger: Mary Keeley
I read a submission this week that had me spellbound. It was a how-to book. I kid you not. There are two reasons this writer’s manuscript so captured my attention: (1) the delicious word usage, and (2) the flow of the words that was as smooth as silk.
It wasn’t the use of exotic or unusual words. Sometimes that can work against you. It doesn’t replace matured craft, and readers who have to labor repeatedly to understand a word’s meaning when they can’t grasp it from the context will become annoyed. The flow will be stalled, and they may put the book down forever. Here is an example of an effective use of an unfamiliar word: She fixed me with a gimlet eye and bore a hole into my soul. In its adjective form, gimlet means “able to penetrate or bore through.”
A well-chosen word can communicate something extra. For instance, friendly dog was lounging in the driveway conveys more than friendly dog was resting…sunning…napping in the driveway. We get an added sense of the dog’s personality in one simple word choice. Brilliantly tight.
Placement of words in a sentence can give them emphasis and power. In The Elements of Style authors William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White advise structuring your sentences so that the word you want to emphasize most is the last one. The period signals a pause that causes a natural emphasis on the last word. Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools, agrees with this strategy and goes on to recommend placing the second word needing emphasis at the beginning of the sentence, leaving the less important details in the middle. Try this in a paragraph of your own work. You should see an improvement in clarity and smooth flow of thought.
I’m going to open this up to all of you now. Toss out a word or sentence you’re struggling with in your current work, and provide a little context for it. Hopefully some of us will be aware of the perfect word that will solve your problem.
What choice words have you used in your writing that you rejoiced over? Chime in with before-and-after sentences you have restructured according to Strunk’s and White’s recommendation. Did you see the shift of emphasis on words?
Two tips on effective use of words from @marygkeeley Click to Tweet.
Sentence structure affects the smooth flow of words and thought. Click to Tweet.