Words

#1
Hehe, sorry about the subject, I'm no good at titles. I just wanted to talk about some of the things that annoy me when I read books and point them out so that you guys don't make the same mistake.
Wow, now that I'm writing this, it kind of sounds like I know what I'm talking about. This is the first time I'm actually giving writing tips so hopefully I don't make a fool of myself. 

1. I really get jerked out of my reading when I see the same words near each other in a sentence or paragraph. For example, let's use the word 'execute'. I see it in one paragraph and that's fine but then I see it in the next one and then I get jerked out of the reading. Why is this you may ask? I think this is because words like execute are recognizable but not commonly used. So when you see a word that is somewhat rare and it is used multiple times in close proximity, it is very easy to notice and it just doesn't feel right. At least that is how it is to me. I can usually avoid this problem by finding synonyms for the word I want to use and maybe reshaping some sentences, so it's not that hard to fix. 

2. Try not to use words you wouldn't use in a conversation. Ok sure, you're a writer, so you can probably get away with a bigger vocabulary, but when you use words like 'acrimony', 'baroque', 'scintillating', and so on it just get's weird. People can sometimes figure out the meaning with some context but still, just try to avoid big words. It's not going to get readers engaged in your book.

And that's all I got. If you guys have any advice feel free to share as well.

Re: Words

#2
I just wanted to stop in here to say that some of us psychopaths enjoy seeing and learning new words.

It was one of my favourite things about the Lemony Snickett 'series of unfortunate events' books. Now I just refer to google instead of the "which in this context means..." explanation provided by the author.

Re: Words

#3

Astrille Wrote: I just wanted to stop in here to say that some of us psychopaths enjoy seeing and learning new words.

It was one of my favourite things about the Lemony Snickett 'series of unfortunate events' books. Now I just refer to google instead of the "which in this context means..." explanation provided by the author.
Sorry about that, I'm sure there are plenty of people who like learning new words. It's just my opinion that words you don't know can detract from the story because now you're wondering what that word meant and not what's happening in the story.

Like I don't look at a book I might read and go "Oh damn, this book looks like it's gonna have some juicy words!'. I'm more concerned about the plot.
Thanks for your opinion though.

Re: Words

#4

Amine Wrote: It's just my opinion that words you don't know can detract from the story because now you're wondering what that word meant and not what's happening in the story.


Would it not also detract from the story if the author is watering down their language? Also, who gets to decide which words are commonly known and which ones aren't?

You use the word 'baroque' as an example but I have a friend who was gushing over her new mirror for the living room and described it as such. Having recently seen it, I can confirm that it's golden, gilded and gaudy so baroque fits the bill.

It feels like your second 'tip' is more personal preference? -shrug-

Re: Words

#6
I'm with Astrille on this. I love learning new weird, obscure, and archaic words. I use a lot of words in everyday speech that I know most people probably don't use that much. Everyone has a different level of vocabulary so it's pretty much impossible to expect someone to limit their words to what you yourself consider common words. Personally, I don't think it's a bad thing to stretch a reader's vocabulary a little. That said, I also don't think a writer should go out of their way to use as many obscure words as possible simply for the sake of using them. It's better with a balance of common and uncommon words.

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#8
i think that i agree though i would word it differently
and right there in the first line of this poem is the key
everyone's vocabulary differs quite a bit
but it can be quite obvious when they abandon it

using words that one is not too comfortable with yet
will make the reader feel a little awkward, i would bet
words are tools and take some time to learn to use with skill
after all, a new tool used incorrectly could kill

PeoReading



Re: Words

#10

I should probably try to better clarify what I meant.
Amine Wrote: It's just my opinion that words you don't know can detract from the story because now you're wondering what that word meant and not what's happening in the story.
I said that words you don't know can detract from the story, and in hindsight I realize I'm saying that unique words make the story worse. That wasn't what I was trying to say, sorry.
What I meant was that when you see words you don't know and you look up their meaning, you stop reading the book. And as an author I think that anything that takes the reader's attention away from the story is a negative. So to clarify my problem isn't that bigger words make the story worse, but that they redirect the reader's attention away from the book. At least that's the case for me.
But it sounds like you all like to learn new words so I want to ask whether that's the case for you too? Do unknown words take your attention away from the book?

Re: Words

#11

Amine Wrote: What I meant was that when you see words you don't know and you look up their meaning, you stop reading the book. And as an author I think that anything that takes the reader's attention away from the story is a negative.


That depends entirely on the word. I generally read the section fully to see if I can guess the meaning from the context. Then I'll either keep my finger on my place in the book (if paper) or highlight the line if online so I can quickly google the real meaning. It's a minute or so job to do.

If I guessed correctly, maximum brownie points for the author. I'll continue reading even if I was only vaguely interested in the plot.
If I guessed wrong but the word was still used correctly. Brownie points to the author. Level of interest in the plot is unchanged.
If I guessed wrong because the word was used in a way that doesn't make sense - It better be a damn good plot because I'm jaded now.

Re: Words

#12

Amine Wrote: But it sounds like you all like to learn new words so I want to ask whether that's the case for you too? Do unknown words take your attention away from the book?


Not at all, new words make me curious to find out what they mean. Sure, I might have to take a brief break from reading if I want to look them up right then, but I don't find that it keeps me from enjoying the story as I can very easily get sucked back into it. Other times, I just make a note to look up the word later if I don't want to leave the story just yet to check right away. The thing is, a word that to one person is unfamiliar, might be very normal to someone else. It's not the author's job to guess what level of vocabulary their readers have. Also, I'd rather an author write at their own vocabulary level even if it includes words or phrases I'm unfamiliar with than attempt to guess where I'm at and end up 'talking down' to me. 

There are some books (like the classics) that I expect to run into words I'm not familiar with so, sometimes, I try to keep a dictionary nearby so I can look things up quickly.

Re: Words

#14
I think it's okay to use new words every now and then. It can be educational to see something new used to describe something, but there's a difference between an author introducing a new or unusual word or two and the author tossing dozens of them at the average reader (someone who just reads for fun and isn't interested in writing or learning new words) just to show off.

It's also important to consider the demographic that a written work is targeting. A lot of younger readers will get confused or may be impatient by words that they don't commonly come across, when all they want is a quick fun read. More mature readers (not in age, but in how much experience they have reading or writing themselves) are a lot more forgiving to (sometimes even interested by) new and unfamiliar words. Both ways of thinking is perfectly fine, because everyone prefers different stuff.

This is a topic that can sorta reveal the occasional disconnect between what authors and writers love vs what readers are looking for. Authors love playing with words vs readers who just want to be able to fully understand and enjoy what they're reading.

Re: Words

#16
You're kind of right, but you're kind of wrong too. It depends on who your intended audience is as to what kind of vocabulary you want to be using. It's generally considered a good rule of thumb to write at about an 8th grade level if you intend to reach the widest audience possible.

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#17

Astrille Wrote: I just wanted to stop in here to say that some of us psychopaths enjoy seeing and learning new words.

It was one of my favourite things about the Lemony Snickett 'series of unfortunate events' books. Now I just refer to google instead of the "which in this context means..." explanation provided by the author.
Val liked that one, and the movie. 😂

Re: Words

#18
Hah, this has pretty much turned into a discussion of the second point, and I'll throw my hat in.

(For what it's worth, I totally agree with the first point - near-word repetition is really jarring to me, too.)

Anyways... the words used should fit the tone, so sometimes strange words are exactly what's needed.

BUT... just like using big words for no real reason makes someone sound self-important and annoying in real life, using long words when short would do just makes things harder for the readers with no real payoff.

I think a really great writer should try and present their ideas as simply and clearly as possible; I believe that lowering the mental load on the reader helps immersion. Sometimes being perfectly succinct means using unusual words, but it's worth checking twice whether dipping into purple prose actually helps the story.

Re: Words

#19

Not_A_Hat Wrote: Hah, this has pretty much turned into a discussion of the second point, and I'll throw my hat in.

(For what it's worth, I totally agree with the first point - near-word repetition is really jarring to me, too.)

Anyways... the words used should fit the tone, so sometimes strange words are exactly what's needed.

BUT... just like using big words for no real reason makes someone sound self-important and annoying in real life, using long words when short would do just makes things harder for the readers with no real payoff.

I think a really great writer should try and present their ideas as simply and clearly as possible; I believe that lowering the mental load on the reader helps immersion. Sometimes being perfectly succinct means using unusual words, but it's worth checking twice whether dipping into purple prose actually helps the story.

Whenever I see something written by someone who looks like they were born with a thesaurus in the head, I immediately assume it's someone fresh out of high school who was taught to write like that by low-quality teachers who penalized using simple words and "repetitions" in essays or whatever kids write in high school

(never wrote an essay in my life, I was in mathematically oriented school and they didn't require us to be literate). 

Re: Words

#20
The art of word choice is pretty difficult to master especially since everything else needs to be well done too - the narrative, pace, characters, etc.

Word can create impact through sound, through repetition when appropriate, so much stuff to consider when writing!