For readers and authors alike words have a special power to transport, inspire, and inform. Today, I’m thrilled to share an article from my dear friend and amazing editor Annie Oortman that is her ode to the power and beauty of words.
Annie and I met as a result of her generosity and kindness. I needed someone to come teach at my League of Utah Writers chapter meeting and Annie volunteered to share her method that helps authors through the process of self-editing, a skill that many of us struggle with. We’ve been friends ever since.
Enjoy the article!
by Annie Oortman
I love words. All of them.
Good ones (wonderful) and bad ones (heck)… small ones (wee) and big ones (considerable). Simple ones (plain) and complex ones (labyrinthine)… charming ones (glamorous) and nasty ones (scatological). Trashy ones (sleazy) and high-brow ones (fastidious)… clever ones (crackerjack) and stupid ones (huh). Moral ones (principled) and… Oops.
Sorry, I got carried away. Why? Because I love words!
Ensure You’re Understood
Words are the means to clear and expressive communication. Whether posting on social media about a movie you saw, talking to your friends about work, or explaining your feelings to your significant other, your choice of words can make the difference between getting your point across and vacuous effective purpose unmitigatedly (missing the mark totally).
Confusion occurs because words have shades or nuances of meanings, just like those addictive paint chip cards that beckon you at the front of your favorite home-improvement store. That’s not just a bunch of reds. Meet Bolero, Rave Red, Red Tomato, Coral Reef, Charisma, Youthful Coral, and Oleander.
Don’t believe me? Here’s what’s on the disappointed chip card: baffled, dumbfounded, puzzled, frustrated, thwarted, and failed. The problem chip card: issue, obstacle, trouble, quandary, dilemma, uncertainty, and difficulty.
One more for kicks and giggles: Pretend: deceive, simulate, masquerade, feign, dupe, bluff, and fool.
Paint Chips? Really?
Still not buying my schtick? No problem. Let’s talk context…
“Sorry about that.” Sorry is used so often in apologies ranging from spilling cereal on the floor to totaling Dad’s car that its connotation stands neutral. However, shades of sorry can zero in on real feelings behind the apology
“I’m distressed about that.” Tayson can’t be believe he forgot his wife’s birthday and won’t feel better until she forgives him.
“I regret the incident.” Margo doesn’t think blowing off a staff meeting should cost her her quarter bonus, but making nice with her boss might fix the problem.
“I sympathize with you.” Mrs. Hutzell’s delay in emailing West Point a teacher recommendation letter caused Caroline’s application to be denied.
“I apologize for my outburst.” Carter’s blunt assessment of his five-year-old sister’s clay ashtray made Betsy cry.
“I’m so embarrassed by my actions.” Bob’s profanity-laced tirade on the tennis court will be remembered for years and he knows it.
“I’m full of remorse.” Carrie knows her ongoing affairs damage her marriage but can’t seem to stop herself.
“Please forgive me.” Adam didn’t mean to rush out of the meeting, but lunch wasn’t sitting well.
Don’t Start Carrying a Thesaurus
Having fun with the thesaurus on the shelf, on your phone, and/or on your computer is one way to learn to communicate clearly and concisely. Others include:
- Reading every day. The more you read and the more variety of options your read, the more words you’re exposed to. See how some famous authors suggest you get started.
- Making friends with your dictionary of choice. If you stumble across a word you don’t know, look it up and then insert it within a conversation or email when appropriate. The easiest one to find? Dictionary.com!
- Learning a word a day. Buy a word-a-day calendar or have a word-a-day website email you. Challenge yourself to incorporate the daily selection into conversation, email, social media posts, etc. at least three times before bedtime. Get started now!
- Having fun with etymology. The study of word origins is fascinating. (Seriously, it is.) Did you know i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, which means that is? Or that the French word for a woman’s bedroom or private sitting room—boudoir—comes from bouder, meaning to pout, sulk? Check out The Etymology Nerd’s daily take on the fun.
- Playing word games. Challenge yourself and discover new words via crossword puzzles, word jumbles, Scrabble variations, etc. while waiting in line or stuck on hold. My favorites include the classic Scrabble, Daily Crossword, and Word Trip.
Okay, my friend. Time to expand your mind (and your vocabulary). Go forth and prosper… blossom… flourish… catch on… thrive… advance…
About Annie Oortman
Faster than a speeding deadline, more powerful than a period, and able to leap a rough first-draft in a single bound… Super Annie fights a never-ending battle for readability, enjoyment, and clear, compelling writing for all!*
Deciphering the written word by age three, performing readings to family and friends from her front porch at eight, and finishing every book in her small hometown library by 12, Annie knew her uncanny ability to not only read, interpret, edit, and improve a writer’s message but teach them to do it themselves must be used for good not evil.
As the mild-mannered Annie Oortman, she travels the world sharing her superpower with fiction and non-fiction authors alike, hoping one day to rid the publishing world of simple subjects, puzzling plots, and wretched writing.
Join her in her fight! Sign up at annieedits.com.
*Her only weakness? Bookstores.