Lesson 5: Wording Can Be Useful
- To demonstrate the way of wording
- To provide examples of incorrect wording so as to better illustrate common mistakes
- To illustrate the importance of word choice in creative writing
Quick Navigation through the Lesson 5:
Words populate the cities that are our sentences. The way they behave and the way they sound determine whether or not we are able to communicate properly with others—which is the very point of writing. Moreover, in creative writing it’s important not just to get your point across but to do it in a way that is beautiful or inspiring. Wording can make the difference between an article, poem or story that will motivate someone to change their lifestyle and one that will be tossed in the trash bin after it’s been read. Picking the right way to phrase your sentences is tricky but with the proper technique, anyone can construct engaging sentences and produce work that will have a strong impact on readers.
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1.) Use the active voice.
One of the biggest mistakes that writers make is to take the passive voice as opposed to the active one. This makes sentences boring—it also makes them longer and more awkward to read.
The essay was written by George Orwell.
The sentence above is in the passive voice and is far less compelling than its active counterpart:
George Orwell wrote the essay.
In the former, the essay is the main focus of the sentence whereas in the latter, George Orwell is at the heart of the matter, taking charge of the object.
2.) Get specific.
The more general or vague a word is, the lazier it is. It’s easy to use but it also lacks oomph—it can be used for anything and so it renders any present context irrelevant. Using linking verbs to describe activities is prevalent in a lot of badly written content. The same can be said for the overuse of pronouns.
I was at their house.
The sentence above wastes five words without really telling us anything—whose house was the person at? What was he/she doing there? Proper wording could turn this into a more effective sentence, such as:
I stood in the doorway of Annette’s room, contemplating whether or not I should wake her for our jamming session.
Here, there are more words but every word tells us something new about the narrator, her friend and their situation.
3.) Use action words.
If you want your writing to be evocative, the wording should be dynamic and evoke movement from the reader. This can be achieved by using action words in their present or present-progressive tense.
Danny is whipping her hair back and forth.
Danny whips her hair back and forth.
The sentence is short and is able to accurately describe Danny’s movement, whereas using the past-progressive or present-perfect tense (below) is less effective.
Danny was whipping her hair back and forth.
Danny has whipped her hair back and forth.
This is very important especially when writing stories—prose work usually involves describing of a lot of actions. Wrong wording could cost you your audience.
Now that we know how important word choice is, we can start writing excellent paragraphs that will allow us to communicate with our readers. We also learned several techniques in this lesson which will help proper word choice become second nature to us—we learned that the active voice is always more interesting than the passive one and that present tense communicates movement and urgency better than past tense. Now, we need to see how our favorite authors incorporated these techniques in their writing and what we can learn by employing their style.
The next lesson will talk about the principles of emulating your favorite author’s way of writing. We’ll discuss how this can be great for learning about how to write and also how this might affect finding your own voice. Turn to the next section and see how you can make your creative writing dream a reality.