Sunday, January 13, 2008

Banishing Overused Words

Lake Superior State University has come out with its 2008 list of words (or phrases) that need to be banished. (Thanks for the reminder CJ.) It made me think of four things when writing.

1. Don't overuse unusual words in your stories, for example, purloined. (Unless, of course, your name is Edgar Allan Poe.)

2. Don't overuse common words. (How many times are you going to use "up" in that scene?)

3. Rein in the jargon and popular cliches least you end up dating your material before it is even published. (Unless, ya know, that you're like, ya know, doing a period piece, hehehe, about some silly female pop singer who screws up her life, like ya know, I'm a pop princess and I can do, oh is that another dog I can get while I go into a strip club with my kids in a car?)

4. Use the correct word. Always look up the definition of those words of which you only THINK you know the definition. (You can't whine like in Mrs. Brown's seventh grade class, "Well, you know what I meant.")

Have a great well...cheer your favorite team...write...write...write.


paul lamb said...

Nonetheless, I don't want to write to the lowest common denominator. There was a tussle over at another blog about the apparent "misuse" of a certain adjective. It turns out that the writer had used the word correctly and effectively, but several commentors thought the usage was too obscure. It certainly was NOT obscure to me. (No wonder no one reads Moby Dick anymore.)

I believe that good writers invent the culture rather than reflect it. If I have to dumb down my writing so some pop fiction fans can follow along, then what am I writing for?

Rant over (for now)!

FARfetched said...

#2 has to be balanced, though. "Said" for example.

#4 is *so* much easier nowadays, at least on Macs. You can control-click (or right-click, with a multi-button mouse) on a word and one of the menu choices is "look up word in dictionary." The dictionary app also provides a thesaurus, in case you're not quite satisfied with the word you just typed.