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?
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?
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?
“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.
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.