The Power of Words

Books and a coffee cupI’m not going to go super profound on this one. I’m not talking about the emotional impact of good writing. I’m talking about some of the less recognized impact that even simple words can have.

For example:

After “The Chronicles of Narnia” became my favorite series in elementary school I adopted a number of British spellings like colour, saviour, and towards.

Right now I am finishing up “Typee,” by Herman Melville. I guess it was his most popular work while he was alive, but I personally enjoyed “Moby Dick” more. (Stay on target) He spells coconut “cocoa-nut.” And no matter how hard I try, it forces me to change my mental pronunciation. It’s a little bit infuriating.

Sometimes the simplest words can make a great impression on your audience. Joss Whedon comes to mind. I remember the first time I watched “Serenity.” I loved how he threw words out of context to create his futuristic slang. (Shiny)

As an author it is easy for me to focus on the narrative, the action, the plot, and the characters without slowing down to examine the words I’m using. I have my pet vocabulary-the words I default to. A large part of my proofreading process involves a thesaurus. That was another thing that struck me about “Typee.” Sometimes I glorify the vocabulary of authors from two hundred years ago simply because it is so different from mine. But Herman Melville had his vocab pitfalls too. Once I actually started paying attention I noticed how he could overuse words like “capacious.”

And the truth is that sometimes the tone of my story won’t allow for me using words like “capacious” without sounding pretentious. There is a time and a place for big words, but I think in general it is more important to keep a uniform tone.

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