Vary Your Words

Words can be powerful things. When writing, the use of the exact right word is crucial to
the process. That said, you shouldn’t be in love with a particular word either. My mother
told me of a book she read in which everything was an orb. The heroine’s eyes were blue
orbs. The hero’s eyes were brown orbs. As she read further, she made a tisk sound and told
me, now the moon is an orb. It was as though the author had discovered a new word. Don’t
be that author. If you find a word you like a lot, use it once and only once. That’s not to say
you can never use it again in the piece. You can, but put some distance between instances
of the word. You could get away with using it twice in a long novel, but nothing shorter. You
need to vary your words, so you aren’t repeating yourself over and over. This is where
things get tricky.

You don’t want to repeat yourself, so you use different words. it’s no good
picking a synonym, either. He ran. He sped. He jogged. He raced. Those sentences seem to
say the same thing. But, in truth, they don’t. “He ran” means just that. Someone was
running somewhere. “He sped” could mean the same thing, but the person could be in a car
or riding a bike. Jogging is faster than walking, but slower than running. You get the point.
Each word has a flavor attached to it. There are shades of meanings to each synonym. Also,
be sure the word means what you think it does.

I’ve seen authors use there in place of
their. The two words may sound alike, but they don’t mean the same thing. I’ve also seen
novice writers use a word that seems as though it means one thing but doesn’t actually
mean that. If you aren’t sure what the word you are planning to use means, look it up. The
dictionary is a writer’s best friend. There’s no shame in looking up the meanings of words.

In any case, there’s no way a reader would know whether you looked a word up or not.
Watch the meaning of each word you use. Use simple language, unless you are writing a
thesis or some other form of technical writing.

In high school, I had an English teacher give me some wonderful advice. Write as though
your readers are idiots because they won’t know what’s in your head. It’s good advice so
I’m passing it on to you. Remember, in fiction, plainness works best. Repetition is boring.
Vary the words in your writing, but don’t swallow a thesaurus to to do that.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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Posted in Writing Techniques

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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