I was having a conversation recently with some marketing writers on LinkedIn. The idea of amateur writers vs. professionals came up. In some ways, we are all trying to attain a certain status of writing … something we perceive to be better than what we are doing today. But does that make us less professional on our rungs up the writing ladder?
Colorful and descriptive words became the topic.
Some writers believe that more descriptive adjective-use makes them seem more skilled. While others contend that simplifying the word choice to con
vey and distill the wordiness, is a sign of a skilled author.
Our discussion centered on flowery uses of words. Do you have a Thesaurus? No, it’s not the dinosaur of the day. It’s a tool that I would think resides right at the elbow of most writers. Opening a thesaurus can be dangerous: it exposes you to new word usage, expands your world of word categories, and, if you’re not careful, sucks you into its verbiage vortex. You may not get out alive. I can spend hours trapped in the word-chain-discovery-definition vortex. Hours go by.
When I finally do gain my senses, I have gathered astounding new twists on old words. I’ve found new definitions that I may never use. And, I have tapped into a creative lobe of my brain that loves to hunt for new phraseology. It’s how I use them that will determine if I am a professional writer or not.
I admit it. Hey, I’m a wordsmith. I will cringe when I see someone’s attempt to find a new colorful word that hasn’t been used before in a description of a web site. And I will cringe when a Fortune 500 web site uses corporate-speak trying to make itself sound astounding.
More astounding is the fact that many incarcerated authors are trying to be heard through their books. I volunteer at a Federal Prison in an Outreach Program where authors are helping writers attain professionalism in their writing. Some aspire to be published. Some are just trying to write worthy prose about their experiences. Some are trying to write a legal brief to help them get out of prison.
Here’s a short lesson example we discussed about the use of voice in a setting, and how your word choices can draw the reader into your scene:
A) They sat in a white room with a series of desks aimed at the white wipe boards. They were waiting to learn. (Simple description and a bit of anticipation.)
B) He walked in quietly and stepped up to the white board, dragged his finger along the chalkless tray before he turned to glare at the open faces of eager inmates within white walls. (Here is a man with attitude who expects to be seen. The words convey control, adversarial expectation, and an edginess not seen in the other example.)
Both attempts can fail if not done well.
So when I come across a writer who works his craft, chooses a creative twist …l like alchemy… or see that a writer has caught my attention with their website bravado, I will give them a silent nod and a grin.
It may not always be extraordinary. In fact, it just may be over-the-top. But, they caught my attention in the bazillion web soup sites that fill my senses daily. I would like to find that perfect word for my niche, too.
So, my advice is the same. Keep looking. Be creative but please never turn your poor Roget’s Thesaurus into a dog-eared over-used resource. Reserve that urge to over-do. Be selective. Sense-filled simplicity is always better.