We’re writers and readers so of course we love words. Maybe too much sometimes? I remember a New Yorker cartoon with a couple dining at a very nice restaurant.
After the waiter walks away the man says, “I really wanted chardonnay, but I like saying pinot grigio.”
Let’s face it, there are some words we like more than others. I’m the state president of a large volunteer organization. This week I was talking to another volunteer about what might have become a thorny issue. I’ll admit that when I realized I might be able to use the words carte blanche, I was euphoric.I remember telling someone once that I only wanted to get old enough to say words like extraordinary, without soundling like a smart**s. Some words are just more fun to say, right?
When should you let a word in your manuscript go?
- When it’s a 50 cent word, and a shorter, simpler one will do. On January 3, Connie Berry’s post was on punctuation. Kurt Vonnegut went further: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. [Offensive remark expunged]. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” That’s how I feel about books that have readers Googling every other sentence.
- When your character just wouldn’t say that. And hasn’t spoken like that so far in the book. Whether your protagonist is staid or humorous, brilliant or dull, talkative or shy, you’ve staked out that ground. Unless there’s some reason for her to change how she communicates, keep her word choices consistent.
- Not to be all, build your wordpower-ish, but do be on the lookout for new words and phrases. The definition for some will be obvious. “That town is very boaty.” Others, you might have to support. For example, “corporate accent.” That’s the way many executives speak when they lay on the bad news euphemisms and it’s usually deeper, monotone, throaty.
I believe that someday, somewhere, I will give myself carte blanche to say carte blanche, and that will be extraordinary. Please comment below with some of your favorite words.
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