20 October 2014

Top Ten Replaceable Words

An article jumped out at me while at work today. A link to it in our weekly newsletter lured me away, the title being "18 Common Words You Should Replace in Your Writing." So what do you think I did while reading this article? I mulled over each word and instinctively produced some fresh ideas of my own, not just replacement words. I'll summarize 10 of the suggestions given, then provide my own thoughts.

1. Good - superb, outstanding, or exceptional.

I agree with this one. If you want to say something was good or someone did well, try a little creative back story.

I hadn't had a meal like that since grandma made her chicken and dumplings and won first place at the Greenwich Country Cook Off.

2. New - latest or recent

If you're talking about a recent batch of donuts, wouldn't they be warm and sticky? Choose words which describe the properties of being new or recent. Maybe the smell of alcohol-based duplicating liquid would indicate the recent production of examination papers a teacher passes along in class.

Jackie lifted the paper and sniffed at the drying fumes on the exam sheet Miss Robinson placed on her desk.

Okay, so if you were born circa 1980, you won't get this. Just carry on.

3. Long - extended, lingering, or endless

If you tell me that it's been a long time since you last saw me, isn't that subjective? Maybe I didn't want to see you again, in which case it hadn't been long enough. Instead, be specific.

"Oh my goodness! It's been 10 years since I last saw you."  
"That many years, huh? Seems like yesterday to me."

4. Old - ancient, fossilized, decaying, or decrepit

The frayed laces and the unglued, rubber-tipped soles of his tennis shoes are a better way to describe something in a specific manner. Again, old is subjective here. To someone who grew up poor, that's just the half way point.

5. Right - exact, precise, or correct

It is the right thing to do! Oh yeah? Whose moral code are you following anyway?

She is right. Really? You mean what she said is based on fact? She spoke the truth, or otherwise didn't tell a lie.

I enjoy my coffee with 2 teaspoons of sugar in an 8 oz serving. Just right, for me.

6. Different - odd, uncommon, exotic, or striking

Instead of using the word different, I like to read descriptions which show contrast.

He flung the fair-skinned maiden onto the center stage in a room filled with Arabic bidders eager to make the purchase for her endowments. They yammered in quick, high pitched syllables, and the whites of their eyes bulged wildly from their sockets.

We can assume the lady is different in many ways, including race, community status, emotional state. So, when describing differences, think about why something or someone is different or odd. Let the reader enjoy the difference.

7. Small - microscopic, miniature, or tiny

Another subjective adjective. Babies are small, but baby rabbits are smaller. Here is another opportunity to show with contrast. What if you read about a tall man who had stubby, two-inch fingers and one-inch thumbs. Weird, huh?

8. Large - substantial, immense, enormous, or massive

I agree, large is boring. Huge is better! I like the word ginormous, shared by a fellow geek at an IBM conference once.

If you tell me a man palmed a regulation sized basketball, I will assume he has large hands. When describing mountains, it is not necessary to refer to them as massive. For real, is there a mountain out there which isn't massive?

The reception bill for my daughter's wedding would be considered large or substantial, but mentioning that it totalled $21,000.00 puts it in perspective a bit, doesn't it? Details are more substantive than mere adjectives.

9. Young - naive, youthful, or budding

Please be reminded that old people can be naive too. As a matter of fact, schemers tend to target elderly folk who are more naive in the ways of social engineering through technology and digital media.

10. Almost - nearly, practically, or verging on

Why even use these at all? I think this robs us of the fun in having things actually happen. So what if someone nearly fell off a chair? Wouldn't it be funnier if they fell off the chair?

Do you have any replaceable words to add to the list? 

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