Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Intro to Word Choice Wednesday

OK, I've got an idea (stand back...) for something I'm calling Word Choice Wednesday.

Picking good words is important. Vital, even. It's one of those subtle things that separates the newbies from the journeymen from the experts. You can learn grammar in spite of all its rules and exceptions and accepted bendings, but learning to choose words isn't something I was ever taught. That I recall. Vocabulary is part of most English classes, mostly as a function of spelling, but the actual usage? Who goes around talking like a vocabulary list, right? When do you use a more general, all-purpose word such as run and when do you use gallop, jog, race or flee?

So tomorrow I will begin a weekly Word Choice post. I will include Merriam-Webster's definition (mostly because they offer a free online dictionary) for reference, but I'm also going to include a valuing system. This may be subject to change, but here's my starting framework:
  • Penny words: Basic words like the, is, run, look, which you can use all the time and nobody will notice. Won't be covering many of these, unless I want to talk about generic-ness. It has its uses, of course.
  • 5 cent words: More specific than basic words. They can be used fairly often.
  • 10 cent words: Words that are good but unusual. Use judiciously. Like the word judiciously.
  • 25 cent words: These words are unusual either because they're very specific or not used much any more. You're not likely to need them more than once and probably shouldn't use them more than once.
  • 50 cent words: Words that draw attention to themselves and really can't be used more than once (in fiction) without sounding ridiculous/pretentious/etc. Such as supercalifrajalisticexpialidocious. (sorry, spell check) More seriously, such as stoichiometry
This isn't really about vocabulary, it's about how we use them. Words don't just have meanings in and of themselves, their meanings are also defined in relation to other words. It's a web of words, not just a list. My intent is to post thoughts on the subtleties of words and their relationships with other words. I hope people will post their thoughts too. Words are full of flavors. If we're going to cook up something tasty, we need to be familiar with all their nuances.

Suggestions welcome and comments encouraged!


The Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like they'll be great posts!

Libby said...

Great idea!

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