Words hold much power, and when a writer writes, they often agonize about making the right word choice. A very sad girl doesn’t hit the stomach like a devastated girl would. Her green bedroom doesn’t evoke a picture in your mind like her sea foam, window-lined oasis does.
Word choice is much more than just choosing which word fits best in context. Word choice encompasses style, flow, and of course, creating the scene. Word choice can either contribute to passive voice, or make the writing explode with movement and color.
When writing in any genre (even marketing or general content) you want to:
Create a scene the reader can experience
Let your reader touch, taste, smell, hear, feel your scene. Writing about the beach? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? Instead of writing about laying on the sand under the blue sky, tell us how gritty the sand feels under your bare skin and how the smell of salty water and dead fish flows into your nostrils with each gust of wind.
You can do this in any type of writing. Your reader wants to feel your writing. They want it to saturate their minds. They want to have an immersive experience. You can easily create this by choosing words that spark one of the five senses within the reader.
Know the meaning of the words used
Though many words can be synonymous in meaning, not all fit into context as well. Make sure the word you choose fits the context and voice of the writing. You can do this by looking up the meaning of the word (even if you’re sure you know what it means)-. If that particular word doesn’t quite fit, use a synonym finder or thesaurus to locate a word that works well contextually. Watch out for words that have unwanted meaning as well. These words might sound right, and the intended meaning might be correct, but sometimes an unwanted meaning also exists.
Here’s an example from UNC’s Writing Center for unwanted meaning:
Words with unwanted connotations or meanings.
Example: I sprayed the ants in their private places.
Revision: I sprayed the ants in their hiding places.
Cut out unnecessary words
Brevity is key. Use as few words as possible to convey what you want to say. Readers tend to become bored or confused when writing is wordy. If they feel either of these, they won’t continue reading your material. Once you write a first draft, dedicate a round of editing to cutting words you don’t need. Explain (in your writing, whether it’s a scene or otherwise) so that anyone can understand. Most of the time, this means less is more. Keep your audience in mind. Are you writing for an online source? Most online readers have a shorter attention span. Keep things like this in the back of your mind.
Example: What she wanted to say was that she completely understood where he was coming from. Revision: She wanted to say that she understood him.
What tips to do you have when it comes to word choice?
Image credit: flickr user Pink Sherbet Photography