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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Choose Your Words Wisely

Have you ever 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 poor word choice 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 which I feel make the story feel more real and the characters more relatable. 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 an obscene idiot for using the word, but they have no problem watching something extremely violent as long the language isn’t too filthy. I’m looking at you, PG-13 movies.

So, when you’re writing your next story or editing your current story, please look at your choice of words. Does the word make sense in the context of the scene? 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!

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click here.


  1. Yes, word choice is very important. I really enjoyed what you had to say. TY for sharing.

  2. I love the subtleties of word choice. As you say, "hello" vs "hi" vs "hey."
    Many would say they mean the same thing, and on one level that's true, but in other ways, there are subtle differences that really add nuance and subtext to the whole thing.

    On the subject of profanity, I'm often struck by how many people seem to readily use profanity, i.e. call someone a dumbass, and no one bats an eye, but I can call someone a fool and suddenly the entire room is silent, as if I have uttered the most profane of terms.
    I think part of it is many have gotten in the habit of using the same few terms. The terms themselves are very hostile, and yet they're used so regularly that they're easily dismissed, while an uncommon but "less severe term" seems somehow "more intense" because it was intentionally chosen, rather than automatically said out of habit.

    There's actually a short book called Steering the Craft (which is on the short list for me to read next) that (I believe) explores the topics of "sentence structure" and "word choice" with a focus on how words and sentence structures that "seem" to say the same thing actually have slightly different connotations.

  3. Excellent post on word choice. It's so true. Dialogue should be natural and age approriate.

  4. People don't swear enough, in my opinion. Do I have any word choice tips? Not really. I grasp for the right word a lot, like it's right there, and it's a common word, but I can't think of it. Today it was the word 'compromise.' Authors say don't use thesauri to write your book, but in my case, I have to use it, just because my brain is wired to lose words I guess.

  5. Thanks for this post! I like what you say about paying attention to words' connotations. This is definitely what I'm always trying to do, and considering how words' connotations can vary in different contexts and for different listeners, it can sometimes be a real debate about what works well. I often find myself just paying attention to the sound of a word itself. Thanks for sharing!

  6. The one thing I enjoy about editing my writing is replacing words with a better word choice, whether it's inserting an action verb for more punch or an adjective to give the reader a better picture. Good advice and reminder in your post. Thank you.
    JQ Rose

  7. Word choice sets the tone of writing for sure. Very important.