The Writer’s Guild­—Tale of Two Writers and Their Word Choices

In spite of a messy desk, words come easily.

In spite of a messy desk, words come easily.

Jan Marx

In the June and July issues of the Pioneer Press, Carl Smothers and I discussed how to begin writing. We each have our own styles. Carl tends to plan on paper before he starts writing and keeps an outline and notes in a binder. In other words, he thinks before he creates his novels. I, on the other hand, get an idea and start writing. It’s our personalities. Neither of us is right or wrong. Our desks reflect the ways we work. Carl’s desk is neat and organized at the end of the day. My desk, on the other hand, is strewn with notebooks full of drawings, pints of pottery glazes, poetry books and edited pages of writing.

That confessed, we both worry about the same outcomes, one of the most important of which is simple, to-the-point and easy-to-understand vocabulary. We want our readers to know what we’re talking about without their having to use a dictionary.

The following are examples of sensible word choice, along with unnecessary choices (unless you’re a college professor trying to impress his/her readers with his/her brilliance) that generally confuse. Say it simply!

Unpretentious word choice

Unnecessary word choice







Another important aspect of words is repetition. Using the same word repeatedly in a paragraph, for instance, “He went to the store. He bought a book. He went home. He read the book.” It’s ho hum boring. How about, “On the way to his boxing match, Jon bought a book he planned to read if there was nothing to celebrate.” Vary sentence structure and pronouns like “he” and “she” to avoid dragging the writing down. And beginning every sentence with the subject won’t keep the reader’s attention either. When I taught creative writing and composition my students knew NTSSWTSW (no two sentences start with the same word in a paragraph).

Also, verbs add action. We tend to talk with “to be” verbs, which are passive. They’re okay to use, but you can give life to your writing by including active verbs like struggle, grinned and jumped. For instance, instead of “They were poor,” try “As a young couple we struggled with money.”

There are other examples, which we’ll address later. In the meantime try these for better communication.