• Amy Shannon

What's in a word?


As a writer, I know that it isn't just about putting words on a piece of paper, but it is also important to know what to write, what not to write, and what you should leave unwritten for the reader to embark on the journey into your imagination (and their's as well).

It is so important to not just put the words down, but put the right or correct word on a piece of paper. There are synonyms for a reason, and just because the words may have similar meanings, it is important to choose the correct one. As a writer, I always have a thesaurus and dictionary on hand, sometimes it's the actual printed book, and sometimes I just do a quick look up on dictionary.com.

As I was editing another writer's work the other day, I came up with the idea for this post. I thought about what I do when I write, and then later what I do when I'm self-editing my work. Yes, sometimes I overuse phrases or words, and those need to be deleted or replaced with something, but other times, it's the one word that makes a difference.

Here is an example of changing one word and how it can affect the entire meaning and intention of the sentence.

Erin hit Derek on the back of the head.

Erin swatted Derek on the back of the head.

Erin slapped Derek on the back of the head.

The intention of the writer is to show that Erin is not being abusive, but probably trying to get his attention. The word swatted shows the intention of the author, rather than hit or even slapped. The word shows the force of what Erin did to Derek.

Other instances can show the same thing, such as changing the word "looked" to "glared" or "gazed" depending on how the author intends to show the audience the emotion. Looked, glared or gazed are similar but the meaning of glared or gazed shows the emotion behind "the look."

It's not that hard to analyze your own work, as you know your intention of what you want to "show" the audience, rather than just "tell" them, and it's important to know what is the right word to use.


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