Language: Words

What is more valuable to a writer than their words? We feel the need to express ourselves in the written (and sometimes spoken) forms, and exactly how we say what we say is essential to our meaning and the mood we create in our audience. Our words should be captivating, enticing, and with just that much mystery to leave the reader wanting more.

Our theme this month has been language. We have discussed several key areas of language that writers need to think about before, during and after we write something: speech, the first, second and third persons, active and passive voice, and the past, present and future tenses. Today, I want to say something about the words we use themselves.

This is not a grammar lesson (seriously, grammar – ugh). I’m not going to lecture you on the overuse of adverbs, for instance – let’s just say that the overuse of any type of word can make your writing seem repetitive or even boring. Instead, it is a brief reminder to be selective and careful about the words you choose (especially in short pieces of writing) and whether they fit in with the feel of the rest of your piece.

Every writer has their own ‘voice’. This is how you write. You might find that your sentences are short and snappy a lot of the time. Or, you might find that when you really get into it and you lose yourself in the writing, your sentences start to run on until you discover that you’ve created a huge paragraph with only a few different sentences in it. You might find that you use a lot of dialogue, or a lot of description. You might find your writing sounds serious, almost like a textbook, or you might find that you have a jolly, easy-going ‘voice’. Often these things are difficult for us to spot about our own writing, because we are used to writing in that way.

Your own voice is not a bad thing. In fact, having a unique voice is something you should pride yourself in, because not everybody can find one and it will make you more recognisable to your readers. However, you need to be careful that your voice doesn’t take over to the point where it becomes difficult or even impossible for people to concentrate on your writing, because they’re still trying to figure out what you write two paragraphs ago.

This is particularly important for those of us who pride ourselves on throwing big, complicated words around. It’s not just something that the academically minded do – lots of writers love words, and will try to include new words that they have recently learned into their writing just because they can. And teaching people new words is great! Though beware: too many words that require a Google or a dictionary and your reader will lose their place – and the plot.

This month’s theme is LANGUAGE. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of language, then please post a link in the comments or email me on with the subject: Language.

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