Saturday, March 8, 2008

Use a Variety of Words, Carefully

I recently discovered through the Apathetic Lemming of the North tumblelog. Their list of commonly overused words stands out as the best page of the exceedingly useful bunch. Not only do they give you a list of tired words but they offer synonyms that may better suit your sentence.

Keep in mind the danger of forcing uncommon words into your writing, however. The ones chosen for this page generally fall within the realm of well-known words. Be sure that you understand the meanings of the alternatives, however. You wouldn't want to write about saturating your cup with coffee just to avoid the word fill, for instance.

Especially when writing for the Internet, choose your words with a thought to the balance between variety and clarity. While a repetitive and 10-year-old vocabulary lacks the power to catch a reader's attention, flowery language and obscure words push them away from your writing just as quickly.

As in many aspects of writing, word choice requires that you consider your readers more than yourself. Know your audience so that you can tailor your vocabulary and style to their expectations. You may still dazzle them with your insight, and are more likely to do so if they can understand and care about what you've written.