Seven sensible steps to success as a writer. Step 3 (Continued):
Choosing the right word
Words carry many meanings – and for a writer, success depends in large part upon choosing absolutely the right word for what you want to say, as well as the way you put those words together.
There’s more than one way to construct a sentence correctly, or to shape a paragraph. And if those choices truly reflect yourself and your ideas, you may find in the words the almost limitless flexibility and beauty of which language is capable.
In the hands of a master, the written word can carry all the sonority and profundity of a musical instrument. Adjectives, similes, metaphors and so on, are the keys and scales on which a writer plays, like any musician, seeking expression and variation.
And as a musician needs both music as well as practice, it’s not surprising that most writers have a goodly set of dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?), and other reference books. They not only help you choose the correct word in the first place, but also to avoid the many repetitions that leap out at you when it comes to editing the manuscript drafts.
For myself, Roget’s Thesaurus, Doubleday’s version of it in dictionary form, and the Oxford and Macquarie dictionaries are indispensible. Other references I frequently turn to are Sir Ernest Gowers’ ABC of Plain Words, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and various style manuals used by publishers.
They’re indispensible too – not only for spelling your golden words in correct house style [honour-honor etc], but also for finding your way through the writer’s maze of accepted punctuation. Of which more next week…