A Million Words — What a Toolbox For the Writer!

In anoth­er arti­cle I talked about words and how they sound as being a cru­cial part of build­ing great poems, it is phe­nom­e­nal that we have access to so many tools to build any­thing we write. Glob­al Lan­guage Mon­i­tor reports the exis­tence of more than a mil­lion words in the Eng­lish lan­guage, we may add words but there are like­ly to be plen­ty of words that already exist to describe any con­cept which you need to discuss.

Words, the Ingredients for Writing?

I love the con­cept that words are the raw ingre­di­ents that any writer has avail­able, much in the same way as a chef selects ingre­di­ents for their recipes from the pro­duce they have pur­chased that day, ingre­di­ents are mixed in a spe­cial way pro­duc­ing a par­tic­u­lar culi­nary affect which ends up both visu­al­ly pleas­ing and tak­ing the pal­let on a jour­ney. I said raw ingre­di­ents because it is the mix­ing process that makes them more spe­cial, we can use words to paint pic­tures for telling sto­ries, through them it is pos­si­ble to invent new uni­vers­es, describe places that exist, tell myths from the dis­tant past or cre­ate new and inter­est­ing visions of any future we find appro­pri­ate and the quirks of lan­guage usage will dif­fer accord­ing to where we hail from.

Ingredients bvy Nile CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay

Do you remem­ber the jour­ney into the future in H.G. Wells’s Time Machine and how that future world was described and the peo­ple that lived in that world? Each read­er will have a slight­ly dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion of the sto­ry, but you will recall it vivid­ly, show­ing the pow­er words can provide.

One old writer sug­gest­ed true writ­ers only use type­writ­ers the rea­son­ing “we must toil over every word then we will choose our words cor­rect­ly, mak­ing sure we select the right one before putting it down on the page” what he meant by this is when being cre­ative it is selec­tion of the spe­cif­ic word that takes most of the effort and util­is­ing the right one, or indeed the right com­bi­na­tion is what pro­vides the most dra­mat­ic affect.

The real essence of this con­cept is reflect­ed by a writer who told me, “I enjoy doing my first drafts by hand,” their point being that in work­ing with pen on paper is how they get their cre­ative­ness flow­ing, it gets the sto­ry mov­ing, they also recog­nise that there is a great dif­fer­ence between the cre­ative ele­ment of writ­ing and prepar­ing the piece for pub­li­ca­tion. Both are an essen­tial part of the writer’s craft, but there are many on-line writ­ers who fail to under­stand the dis­tinc­tion — dash­ing to pub­lish the first words gen­er­at­ed from their mind, with lit­tle thought to how an idea is con­veyed, one of the rea­sons why in some instances there can be more than a dozen alter­na­tive words with very sim­i­lar mean­ings, select­ing the per­fect one is a skill that must be acquired.

How well any per­son writes is  about how they under­stand word usage and the ways in which they dis­play their word-craft by the act of com­bin­ing these into phras­es, sen­tences and para­graphs to con­vey the intend­ed mean­ing.

Just Another Word?

A four year old boy invent­ed his first word while trav­el­ing home from nurs­ery school, one day he was feel­ing the tex­tures of the walls and fences and told his moth­er how the wall near a shop on the route was “Crick­le.” The mean­ing of this par­tic­u­lar word being a smooth sur­face hav­ing bumps on it, like a con­crete wall hav­ing stones pro­trud­ing from the sur­face, so smooth and bumpy or crin­kled at the same time, cer­tain­ly a good choice for a new word. This one has been with me all my life.

Truth is new words are invent­ed every day and will be till the end of time. It is pos­si­ble for any per­son to begin to under­stand a new lan­guage and com­mu­ni­cate with oth­er peo­ple in that lan­guage know­ing as few as 500 words, yet there is a dif­fer­ence between the tourist know­ing 500 words and using that knowl­edge to nav­i­gate to their hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions and the writer who lever­ages their knowl­edge of the lan­guage to paint pic­tures in the imag­i­na­tion of the read­er. Remem­ber even if your writ­ing is pure­ly fac­tu­al you still need to tell a sto­ry to be well under­stood.

Isn’t There already a Word for that?

Technical by Stevebidmead CC) Public Domain from PixabayWith new words com­ing along all the time it is appro­pri­ate to ques­tion how we have got­ten by with­out that word for thou­sands of years and it is appro­pri­ate to ask whether there is already a word for that con­cept. Appar­ent­ly “web 2.0” was the mil­lionth word added to the dic­tio­nary, this is a tech­ni­cal word with spe­cial inter­est in the Soft­ware or Inter­net indus­tries. Hail­ing from those indus­tries I have used the term “web 2.0” and know its mean­ing, per­son­al­ly I don’t con­sid­er it a word in its own right, espe­cial­ly when the inevitable “web 2.1” or “web 3.0” comes rolling on by, this is a tech­ni­cal term, noth­ing more, noth­ing less and tech­ni­cal terms don’t nor­mal­ly qual­i­fy as true words in my thinking.

Hash­tag” is anoth­er inter­est­ing addi­tion and arguably has no pri­or alter­na­tive word, again it is real­ly a tech­ni­cal term, yet its impor­tance is under­stood by any­one who uses Twit­ter of Face­book and real­ly is being import­ed into many lan­guages, Eng­lish, Span­ish, French, Ger­man, Chi­nese, etc. every­one is start­ing to under­stand the impor­tance of hashtags.

With new words, such as “self­ie” it can be argued that their are already words that work per­fect­ly sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly that a new word was not need­ed, after all Van Gogh paint­ed a famous self-por­trait in the 19th cen­tu­ry. Here is a case of a younger gen­er­a­tion cre­at­ing a new “hip” word that rapid­ly enters com­mon use, is it a real word of a col­lo­qui­al­ism asso­ci­at­ed with the 2010s, time will sure­ly tell. There are many valid rea­sons to add words to the dic­tio­nary, it used to be the case that for a word to be added it had to be in reg­u­lar use for near­ly 20 years, but today it seems to be added after being used twice by two dif­fer­ent people.

Word Aids

When I am typ­ing on my tablet device it has type ahead turned on, this means that some­times it flash­es up the word I am think­ing about before I type a sin­gle char­ac­ter, but there are also occa­sions when all the help in the world will not find the right word to use to describe what you have in mind. If that is tough for native Eng­lish speak­er it is dou­bly so for an immi­grant learn­ing Eng­lish once they have moved to a new land.

If you don’t know what word to use chances are you need to edu­cate your­self a lit­tle more and expand your word usage, dic­tio­nar­ies are help­ful as is Google but most help­ful of all is the will­ing­ness to improve.




Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee as a thank you for con­tribut­ing his thoughts on the pow­er words can bring. All images used here are either owned by Peter Giblett or are CC0 Pub­lic Domain.



Please fol­low and like us:
Follow by Email

8 Replies to “A Million Words — What a Toolbox For the Writer!”

  1. […] there to be many prob­lems with spelling check­ers, not to men­tion the fact that there are more than a mil­lion words in the Eng­lish lan­guage today and new words are added to the dic­tio­nary every […]

  2. […] our most pow­er­ful tools. Words have crushed souls and built empires.” This is where the pow­er of words comes into play with every­thing a writer writes, sto­ries have the pow­er to con­vince the hearts and […]

  3. […] telling, hyper­link­ing, style and pre­sen­ta­tion, pro­vid­ing visu­al images to enhance the writ­ing, expand­ing your vocab­u­lary, adopt­ing dif­fer­ent writ­ing styles, using Social Media for […]

  4. […] our most pow­er­ful tools. Words have crushed souls and built empires.” This is where the pow­er of words comes into play with every­thing a writer writes, sto­ries have the pow­er to con­vince the hearts and […]

  5. […] dis­cus­sion on accent? Well one of the great­est chal­lenges of being under­stood is how we all use words, and some­times the words we don’t use which can make or break a spe­cif­ic con­ver­sa­tion. I […]

  6. […] of the basic tools a child uses are bricks with let­ters paint­ed on them, used to build words. Imag­ine for one moment that instead of hav­ing let­ters, they had pop­u­lar words paint­ed on each […]

  7. […] window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); It is true that a good writer will pro­vide colour through the words, phras­es and sen­tences they cre­ate, but could the use of colours to empha­size moods and to […]

  8. […] A Mil­lion Words – What a Tool­box For the Writer! […]

Your comments