Someone told me recently that I use too many big words in my writing, and that I should just use simple words when I write. This sort of feedback can be invaluable to a writer. Maybe I should use easier words when I’m writing. Instead of invaluable, I could use the word useful. Word choice is probably the most difficult task that writers get into when writing, especially in poetry. In previous columns we have talked about keeping your writing sounding natural. True, there are words that don’t sound natural when you use them. It might be an unusual word, or a really really BIG word. Or even an unnecessarily difficult word. I think it’s not a matter of using a big word or a small word, a complex word or a simple word, it’s a matter of using the RIGHT word.
The English language is a blessing and a curse. The English language has more words than any other language on earth. This makes it a very difficult language to learn. It can also be very difficult to work with. But being a native speaker of the biggest language in the world is a blessing for writers. Writers strive to express an idea. Having more words to express an idea is a good thing. In the English language, we have many many words that mean the same thing. Except for the fact that they don’t. Each word has a subtle shade of meaning. Let’s look at the example I stated above. I used the word invaluable when I could have used a synonym ( a word that means the same thing) that was probably more understandable. But when I say useful, I mean something that has many uses. When I say invaluable, I mean something that has SO much value, you can’t even calculate it. Invaluable is the much stronger word, and that’s why I chose it.
You can do the same thing as a writer. Don’t worry about the complexity of your vocabulary, but definitely think about the correctness of your vocabulary. There is an exact word for what you are trying to express. Now, you just have to go out and find it.
Speaking of which, do you have any words that you consider your favorites? How about your least favorite words? Me, personally, I hate the word “happy”. I don’t dislike the concept of happy, I just think it’s a terrible word for such a wonderful thing. Please log in and share your thoughts. Until then, I wish you richer writing.
-Teresa Sari FitzPatrick