How to Find the Right Words Every Time
Creating images in a reader’s mind is what writing is all about. But oftentimes, finding the right words to express the meaning we want our readers to gain can be tricky. Writers toil over their words and nothing seems quite right. And this problem can have several different causes.
Perhaps your vocabulary isn’t broad enough—in other words you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable using the words that mean what you want to say. Or maybe you’re unknowingly writing in the passive voice and so your sentences come out awkward and your meaning is lost. If any of these challenges sound familiar, consider the following tips for finding the right words for what you want to say in your writing.
1. Vocabulary Builders
Heading to the thesaurus to discover new words can be risky—it often results in misuse and confused meanings. But a thesaurus, when a word’s meaning is double-checked against a dictionary, is a good way to build your vocabulary and give you confidence when selecting words to use in your writing. To ensure you don’t misuse any words when you refer to a thesaurus, show your work to someone who can point to unwanted connotations and unintended confusion.
2. Simile and Metaphor
For situations when you need more than just the right word to express your thoughts, you need an image. Simile and metaphor are excellent ways to accomplish this—when used effectively, they create an image in your reader’s mind that resonates beyond what a regular old word can ever achieve. Simile is a comparison using “like” or “as,” such as: that boy is as lanky as a loblolly pine. “Loblolly” is such a great word a reader doesn’t even need to know the tree is tall and thin to understand the simile. “The boy was a loblolly pine amongst shrubs,” is an example of metaphor.
3. Active versus Passive Verbs
If your sentences don’t seem to say precisely what you want them to, then the problem may be with your verbs. Consider the following sentence: “There is a girl walking slowly down the street.” The verb in that sentence is “is walking.” “Slowly” is an adverb meant to describe the way she was walking. Now compare the effect that sentence has with this one: “The girl sauntered down the street.” “Sauntered” does the work of both verbs and the adverb from the first sentence because it’s stronger. Automatically the reader can see the girl on the street.
Finding Your Right Words
Writing is a practice, and the more of it you do, the easier it will be to find the right words to communicate exactly what you want to say to your readers. When you feel stuck, you can use these three tips to write more effectively and find the right words every time.