LESSON Ten-Dollar Words

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by Minibit, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. Whether they're long, fancy, dated, or just really cool sounding, there's a few rules of thumb I find handy to keep your ten-dollar words from working against you.

    1. The fanciest word is not always the best word!
      It is usually better to use the word that quickly gets your meaning across, especially outside of dialogue. If a reader has to pause to consider what the word means - or worse, to look it up - the pacing, tone, and focus of your writing is compromised. it takes less time to envision someone 'walking' than 'perambulating'

    2. Thesauruses are awesome for if the first word you think of isn't quite right, but avoid synonym-hopping! You can end up with a word that doesn't even mean what you want anymore if you start looking for words that sound fancy over words that get the point across.

    3. Tone
      The vocabulary you choose will effect the tone and voice of the story and the characters. A character who would say they were feeling 'serendipitous' gives a different impression than one who says they are feeling 'lucky'. People will perceive your characters differently if their dialogue requires a dictionary. This is true of your descriptive voice as the narrator, as well.

    4. Nobody likes reading with a dictionary in the other tab
      Ten-dollar words are, every now and again, the best word for the situation, winning out even over more readily understood synonyms. So if it's really just gotta be 'perambulate' and not 'walk', make sure the context at least lends a hint of what this weird word means.
    Advancing your vocabulary with big words is cool and fun, but use these words wisely!
     
    #1 Minibit, Feb 17, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
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  2. ... I have a character whose dialogue is filled with ten-dollar words for the sake of coming off as pompous and unnecessarily complicated as possible. It's hilarious to me. I thought it'd be hard to give him a personality outside of this, but it's working out surprisingly well.

    Though I wouldn't recommend anyone to thesaurus as hard as possible, you can give your character some flavour with this. Like everything else, big words are a part of your toolbox. They can be used both well and poorly. Though using a narrator's voice with a lot of overcomplicated words will come across as gibberish.
     
  3. Pompous characters who are intentionally pompous are fine! #3 was more a "be aware that it changes perception" than "don't do this because it changes perception" :P

    And yes! Too many weird words all together can send readers skimming @.@

    Edited the OP for pro-big-words clarity
     
  4. I was mostly trying to point out the difference between difficult to comprehend character dialogue and narration. Though it's a minor note at best, I like to pretend I'm smart and have something to add about everything ;p
     
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