Find the Right Word for the Job
One of the most effective ways to achieve a rich, expressive writing style is to strive to find the ideal words to express yourself. For example, whether you’re writing a report or a novel, always review your writing to make certain you are using vivid descriptions.
Let’s say you want to describe a box. Before you even get to piling adjectives on top of it, tell your reader what type of box it is: Is it a locker, or a locket? Is it a chest, a trunk, or a crate? Does it resemble a jewelry box, a tinderbox, or a snuffbox? (If a character in a story is secreting love letters or other objects he or she wishes to suppress, the box in question could be metaphorically referred to as a coffin.)
Plenty of handy words exist for helping readers picture something. There are terms for size, shape, mass, color, and other qualities, including how an object affects the five senses. But there are adjectives, and then there are adjectives. Which word conjures a more arresting image: Bad, or malevolent? Big, or monolithic? Black, or a synonym like ebony, obsidian, or sable that also provides a textural clue?
You’re describing someone walking. But there’s more than one way to walk. Is the person ambling, or scrambling? Strolling, or strutting? Mincing, or meandering? Precise verbs can convey a lot of information, signal your tone (serious or whimsical), and help readers visualize action.
How does something occur? With the right verb, adverbs are less important or even unnecessary (just as an ideal noun can diminish the need for an adjective), but they can come in handy. Is something said mirthfully, or morosely? Confidently, or confidentially? Rightfully, or righteously (or self-righteously)? Illustrative adverbs help verbs just as coordinated colors please the eye.
How do you find just the right word for the job? A thesaurus (one type of -saurus that will never go extinct) is a handy tool for enriching written language, but the most effective strategy is to read good books and articles (online or in print). Amassing one’s word-hoard (a magnificent compound stemming from the Old English term wordhord) is best accomplished organically by osmosis. Read so that you can write writing others will read.
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