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respect the word!

January 26, 2011

even though i have a blog, i don’t often read other blogs. i’ve only found a few i enjoy reading, even after many visits to “freshly pressed.” food, technology, politics, and sports seem to monopolize the majority of blogs, and i don’t often want to read about those (especially sports).

i’ve also noticed that many bloggers try too hard. maybe it’s really just a matter of taste, but this blog i read recently felt as if it was written in victorian times. actually, it was probably more along the lines of someone who puts every word into a thesaurus and picks a more “complicated” word at random. that really annoys me. synonyms are not created equal! words have connotations and specific uses. for example, a synonym for “exclamation” also includes “ejaculation,” but the latter term makes every normal person involuntarily picture an erupting penis. so, probably not a great choice when you’re writing about something your grandmother said.

that was an easy example. at random, a more challenging instance would be the implications of someone who “loses” during a game and one who “succumbs.” again, “succumb” is a synonym for “lose,” but succumb implies not putting up much of a fight. or “famous” versus “notorious” where the second term hints at being known for something negative. or even just understanding that some words like “vex” are out of style right now. people are “vexed” in shakespearean times. i’m sure there are situations it would still be appropriate, but you have to be careful or your writing will sound stilted or overwrought.

anyway, i guess i’ve always enjoyed writing that is simple but vivid. wordiness puts me in a bad mood. shoving an adjective before every noun does not a good writer make. certainly, it’s not easy to write and i’m not saying i know exactly how it’s done. i have, however, read a lot of beautiful, moving writing out there. stuff that makes you pause and read it again. there is an art to using the tools of word choice and sentence structure to create something that resonates. respect the word!

ok, i’m done with my little english lecture 😉 feel free to use the comments section to share excerpts of writing you find moving.

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One comment

  1. i know it’s a long excerpt, but i think it’s worth reading to the end. it’s written by tim o’brien. simple words, but creative and penetrating. this is from “the things they carried,” written about soldiers in vietnam:

    “What they carried was partly a function of rank, partly of field specialty. As a machine gunner, Henry Dobbins carried the M-60, which weighed 23 pounds unloaded, but which was almost always loaded. He also carried between 10 and 15 pounds of ammunition draped in belts across his chest and shoulders.

    The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among them were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, and two or three canteens of water.

    They carried the land itself—Vietnam, the place, the soil—powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.

    They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing—–these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide…They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing.”



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