Writing Lies // Part 2

Writing Lies Series

“Write like you talk”

I personally haven’t received this one very much in my life. Which I am glad of. Because if someone told me this, I might just punch them in the proverbial teeth.

This advice, while possibly a good idea when it comes to dialogue, is nothing short of a disaster when it comes to descriptions or the rest of the book. While one shouldn’t open a thesaurus and start using ginormous, multisyllabic words no one has ever heard of, we should seek to elevate our language. The average American has a working vocabulary of 3,000 words. Shakespeare had 54,000 words.

Let that sink in a moment.

Now, to clarify, a working vocabulary by definition is the words that we use on a regular basis in our daily lives. Me might know more than 3,000 and in fact, the average study says we actually know 15,000. But we don’t use all of those on a daily basis.

And to further clarify, I am not saying our books should read like Shakespeare. But to be honest, we should be constantly seeking to better ourselves in this area. Books would be incredibly boring if we used the same 3,000 words to describe in our books and stories? I rarely say in passing while telling a story that someone dashed, tiptoed, or marched. I always say “walked”. How boring is that? Not to mention, the common American language is punctuated with ‘ums’ pauses and other superfluous words such as “like,’ “you know’ etc.

I don’t want that in my books, thank you very much. Nor would or do I read ones that read like this. They bore me. Give me a nice, meaty, juicy novel with descriptions and even a new word or two and I will love you forever.

We have many beautiful words in our English language. There is a reason they all exist. Let’s use them.

What do you think about this piece of writing advice?

By God’s Grace,

Victoria

4 thoughts on “Writing Lies // Part 2

  1. I absolutely agree! A book that send me looking for a dictionary once or twice is a nice change — and I often am able to remember, learn, and use those words more often by learning one or two at a time, rather than having to look up every fifth word in a book. If I am not able to understand the content due to the words, I am not likely to get much out of it =) And a book that is so simplified that they use the same, common words of everyday isn’t going to hold my attention for very long, either.

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  2. Oh, Victoria, you’ve inspired an impassioned response from me!

    I disagree. The assumption that your 3,000 working (speaking) vocabulary won’t grow as you’re learning new words and new ways to piece them together is erroneous. (Yes, I threw in some big words right there just to sound poncy. ‘Twas intentional and I would say it aloud!) If your actual vocabulary doesn’t grow, why are you even reading? It’s the full mental workout of reading that makes it such an important thing. The fact that it broadens the possibilities you can contemplate, the ideas you can convey, the ideas you can receive, and the empathy and compassion you can give. It gives the ability to be able to reach up and pluck the exact words to be convey a thought and have the other person understand exactly. what. you. meant.

    As you mentioned, a good writer will craft a good story. She will keep the story moving, she dress up the mundane and describe images so detailed and colorful that one is transported. She will make the despair of a character the despair of the of the reader–all by her choice of words. It’s wonderful. Why limit such excellence to the long, hard work of writing a novel? Why can’t such thoughtful and engaging communication be equally applied to an email or the retelling of a story to a friend? Why shouldn’t you say, “and there I was just gallivanting along” or shout “Indubitably!” in support of another’s statement. You can, and it’s amazing.

    So, I say, write how you speak. But be a better speaker. Make words and language your hobby. What you choose to say and how you choose to say it is what makes you you! The whole world knows you by your words. But endeavor to become a better speaker, a better wordsmith, a succinct communicator, and a purveyor of rich imagery.

    I love writing, but I love speech and speaking more–so much so that I can’t help but respond!

    Wishing you the best! 🙂

    Jane

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  3. I know, right?! 😛
    I find I can write better a lot than I can talk…which makes sense. When I sit down to write something I can’t help but use better vocabulary than what usually comes out of my mouth.

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