More thoughts on the writer's tools of the trade

Further to my previous blog on words, they are our tools and, as with any tools, you need to select the right ones for the job.

For me, it is best to keep it simple and effective: write what you want to say. Don’t be tempted to use different words just for the sake of it.

Sometimes it’s not necessary to find alternatives. It can make a piece read artificially, making a reader more aware of the writing than the subject. Examples come often in the tabloid newspapers. Having used the word cake, they will use words like ’sugared sweetmeat‘. Don’t - if cake is the right word, use it.

However, a warning. The repeated use of a single word can emphasise a point but be careful not to overuse it. If you’ve told the reader once that a character is ‘angry’, that should be sufficient.

I came across the following illuminating quote from the great Kurt Vonnegut, warning against the search for words you would not normally use in order to provide variety: “The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.”

And CS Lewis said: “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don't say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

It's sage advice.

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