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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Importance of Word Choice



Have you every read a short story or a book that felt off? The story itself was good but something just didn’t feel right. There is a good chance that it was poor word choice that was throwing you off.

The way I see it, one of the most important things a writer can focus on is word choice. Especially when it comes to dialog. Dialog can make or break a story. As a writer I need to know when to have a character say “hello” versus having a character say “hey.” I need to know the connotation behind words, particularly if I am writing a period piece or a story taking place in a certain country (if the story takes place in the US but a character had just moved there from London, it would be a smart choice to have the character use British slang versus having them use American slang.) 

Along with good word choice, I find that my favorite writers aren’t afraid to use “colorful” language. They use cuss words and content appropriate slang. It’s kind of sad that I feel the need to mention this, but Americans are extremely weird when it comes to language. The word “fuck” will have some of them up in arms and they will act like you’re obscene idiot for using the word, but they have no problem watching something extremely violent as long the language isn’t too filthy (PG-13 movies.) 

Why is using colorful language important to me? Because it makes your characters easier to relate to. Think about Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s hard for to me to take it seriously because of the language that the characters use, whether in dialog or their head. The main protagonist is 22 and calls her vagina “my sex.” She says “holy crap” and “double crap” way more than most adult women do. The only Latino in the books says “dios mios” almost every time he appears. (Basically, you should read Fifty Shades of Grey as “what not to do” example.) It’s all good to have a character who has a tagline, but to have them repeat the same words over and over feels cheap and lazy.

So, when you’re writing your next story or editing your current story, please look at your choice of words. Did you make sure the language made sense? Did you make productive choices? If a sentence doesn’t sound right, try changing a word or two and see if that helps.

I hope this helps you in your writing. Please let me know if you have any word choice tips or advice!


Next week’s blog will discuss getting a job that allows you to use your degree. I would like to give a shout out to my great friend, Lori, for the idea!