At its most basic level, writing is the choice and arrangement of symbols.
Those symbols are usually letters and punctuation with a number or an image thrown in occasionally.
Punctuation is about sentence structure and stylistic artistry. Word choice is about clarity and elegance, about evoking vivid emotional responses.
I agree with Mark twain who once famously said, “the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.”
This post is about finding the right word.
7 Word Choice Secrets Of Bestselling Authors
On every page, in every paragraph, in every sentence, there are multiple word choices.
When confronted with these choices, lean into these seven strategies.
- Choose the short word
- Choose the evocative word
- Choose the contrasting word
- Choose the concrete word
- Choose the clear word
- Choose the lyrical word
- Choose the “right” word
Short words — fox instead of animal, sin instead of wrongdoing — often pack more punch.
Evocative words generate emotion through meaning and association (shame, baby, funeral).
Contrast words grab attention because of odd pairing: wet sand, cold fire, beautiful atrocity.
Concrete words are visual, sensory words that lend to showing, not telling. Shards of glass. Shattered hoof.
Clear words are specific, accurate. Tuesday November 13th, not next week.
Lyrical words flow, lilt and play music in the “ear” of the reader. Prose, serendipity, facetious.
“Right” words are words that best fit into the collective narrative of the sentence. Like most humans I know, words change when they marry. Always consider the context of the sentence, paragraph, page, scene and story. As my editor once told me, beautiful girls don’t “plop”.