Pick Your Words Carefully


Last month while I was checking the weather forecast, extremely cold was written for one day, frigid the next.

As a writer, words fascinate me. The choice of words my fellow authors pick intrigue me. As in the case of whoever write this forecast. What’s the difference between extremely cold and frigid? According my dictionary, frigid is just another word for cold. So, I assume that meant that the extremely cold day is less tolerable than the frigid one. (At least to someone like me who hates chilly temps).

This got me thinking about the need to be picky when we select our words. And yes, this applies to both fiction and non-fiction writers.

Do you think about the words you write? Do you know their true meaning or even what readers will think when they read them?

Here’s an example of what can happen when you pick just one wrong word.

Back in the days when I was a publicist, I met with a potential client whose company organized health and wellness expos. He wanted more publicity, more people to attend, and needed my help. My first question to a client was always what have you done so far? He pulled out a press release he’d written and slid it across the table to me and said it wasn’t having the response he’d hoped for.

After reading it, I knew why. It wasn’t that it was poorly written but one word stood out. He’d written at the end of the release that this expo would be the titanic of events.

I’ll ask you the same question I asked him, what does the word titanic conjure up in your mind? (Okay, apart from the movie).

He sat there looking at me for a few seconds. Bear in mind that the movie of the same name was the hottest thing that year. His silence told me he’d realized his fatal error.

I know he’d meant to brag that his event was going to be one huge and spectacular event, but to most people, titanic is associated it with the biggest maritime disaster in history. Would you want to attend an event that the organizer was comparing to a tragedy?

It’s all too easy to type the first word that springs to mind, especially if it’s one that’s in the news or the one that everyone’s using, but take a few seconds to decide if it’s the best you can do. Is it really appropriate? Does it fit with the style and tone of the piece? If you hadn’t written it, what would you think about those choice of words?

If you’re not sure the exact meaning of a word, seek out a dictionary or thesaurus and see if you can find something else…even a word that conveys what you’re trying to say in a more precise way. The added plus is it makes for richer prose and a clearer picture in the reader’s mind.



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