Okay, So How Do I Say This?

 

DSC_6966 (2)

Thumbing through a recent magazine dedicated to writing, I came across an article that urged writers to “use the right word.” This advice is nothing new. We see “tips for good writing” everywhere, especially when it comes to word usage. For instance, we are told, over and over again, the word VERY is a word to avoid. Just don’t use it. Throw it away.

To be honest I like the little word—very. It has a nice sound, a rhythm, a sweetness. At one time I thought to write a novel and give it the title: VERY, VERY, VERY, just to piss off the word pundits. But no, I didn’t do it. So what can one do?

Well one idea came to mind as I was working on a short story. Do you want to use “very”? Do you want to use a “fancy” word instead of a plain one, like say, “procure” instead of “get”? Well go right ahead. You can do it in dialogue. As a matter of fact I urge you to do so.

Dialogue is your ticket to free expression. You as a writer may not be able to use adverbs or “fancy” words, but your characters can. The young man in your novel who is overwhelmed with everything uses the word “very” overmuch. That’s okay. It’s him. The way he talks defines him. It sets him apart. It makes him different from the professor who uses the word, “prioritize” instead of “rank.” Of course, when you write with a first person narrator, hey, all bets are off. Think of Celie in THE COLOR PURPLE.

The advice to write sparingly is good, but how much fun it is, on occasion, to break the rules.

What about that? How far do you go with your characters? Do they start sentences with “Him and me…”?

35 thoughts on “Okay, So How Do I Say This?

  1. Emily J.

    This is awesome! I often told my composition students not to use the word “very” because they relied on it to say something that could have been said with a more descriptive word. But I like your contrary idea here of a novel with that title. Nice!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Thank you. I think I simply get a tad annoyed when I’m told NOT to use a “fancy” word. It’s really kind of sad. Now when I was teaching I did remind students not to overuse “very,” because as you say, they could develop their ideas with a broader vocab. But a “very” here and there, hmmm, okay. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. Deb

    I very often think of using fancy words…how can I make this better, what’s a better word than “great” or “fun” or “awesome”! I used very on purpose there, I wanted to my show solidarity!! Isn’t it amazing the conversations we have in our heads!! But I never thought about giving your characters the freedom to use what ever words you desire for them!! Glad to see you are posting again!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  3. Cynthia Guenther Richardson

    I wonder why this has come into vogue the past few decades. Are readers less familiar with a broad yet succinct vocabulary? Do they not want to take the time to look up words they might not be certain about? People used to use language like a paintbrush and get carried away with distinctive voices and wonderful descriptions–and they might have utilized less familiar language or specific words, even archaic words… Dickens never worried about to many or fancy words, nor Joyce. I love language and reading and will write it with its fullness of life. Very wordy here, perhaps and I care far less than I used to as a youth at work writing!
    Nice post; thanks for the share again. (I know, semicolons are not all the rage, either.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      I agree with you one hundred percent. I fear the “dumbing down” of American readers produces the by-product of cloning. In other words, all narratives must use a similar vocabulary; therefore, at some point we all sound alike.

      I think you are absolutely right in that writers must use, should feel guilty if they don’t use, a broad vocabulary. And yes, even YA authors. Well, perhaps the pendulum will swing back that way in the future. I hope so. And hey, I love semicolons!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Ah, the hawk. Isn’t it a beauty. I got that picture when my wife and I were hiking about at a park here in Decatur. It’s a great place to walk our black lab, Cody. On one side you have tall shade trees and on the other the Tennessee River.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. paulabroome427 Post author

        The river pulls in a lot of bird life. In February, we get a few weeks visit from Sandhill cranes. It’s amazing. I never thought I’d live in Alabama, but here in North Alabama I am really quite happy. Of course my dream is to live in Japan. But my dear wife has to get retarded like me…another eight years…but until then, hey, Alabama aint so bad.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Job

    A book titled Very very very sounds like a great idea. Who likes to break rules? I do. 😂😂. However like Emily said, teaching folks to be very descriptive by not using words like very is a great idea. Oh my, that wasn’t intentional, it just came out like that, rather I should say errrrm ‘expressly descriptive.’ Is that even correct? Heck I should work on my descriptive ability. Nice to see you there Paula, been a long while. Hope you doing great. Xoxo.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. milesmb3

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more with you about the word “very.” It is a dainty, proper sounding word, in my opinion. I think that’s because I often hear the word “so” substituted (incorrectly!) for “very” eg. “I like this book so much!” For that reason, “I like this book very much!” is music to my ears.

    Recently, I was gathering material to write a lesson plan about the use of adjectives and adverbs. I was interested to come across this piece of advice: adjectives/adverbs should be used to modify nouns when they clarify meaning, add meaning, or contribute to the meter of the sentence. I was familiar with the first two uses of adjectives/adverbs, and the yin to their yang–don’t use adjectives if they don’t clarify or add meaning! However, I hadn’t thought about that loophole at the end; sometimes, an otherwise unnecessary adjective/adverb simply gives a sentence a smoother meter. Maybe “very” falls into that category.

    Thanks again for the post!

    Like

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      Miles, thank you for your terrific response. But now I have to ask! I read your “About” section and you mention that you have a degree in Biology and you worked as a teacher but now you’re a research assistant at Vanderbilt–impressive, I might add–but above you say you’re working up a lesson plan on adj. and adv. Are you teaching English as well. I’m beginning to think you are a Renaissance woman! Oh, and please let me know when and/or how I can grab a copy of “Eleanor”! Congratulations on that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. milesmb3

        Renaissance woman, I like that! I thought I was just indecisive.

        Yes, I work the 9-5 in a biology research lab at Vanderbilt University (9-5 unless an experiment goes terribly wrong, and then there’s no telling what my hours might be). Although I enjoy my lab work, I haven’t been able to relinquish my love of language. I write in my spare time, and on Thursday evenings, I teach an English class for refugees who have recently arrived in the states. I guess it’s my way of trying to strike a work-life balance.

        “Let me know when and/or how I can grab a copy of your book!” Clearly, you know the way to a writer’s heart. haha. I am hoping to release Eleanor in late August, and I will definitely get back to you with details! Thanks so much for asking!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. paulabroome427 Post author

        You are very welcome! I am very impressed that you are able to manage work and writing with such success. I am interested in your novel, ELEANOR. First off, it sounds like something I would enjoy reading and too, I have–in the works–a novel that deals with a young woman, mid-to-late twenties, who is a high school Biology teacher. Unfortunately I’m determined to get four short stories completed before I get to the novel. So, when I read the description of your work, I said…whoa! Here’s something I definitely need to read. And too you have a very engaging writing style. So thank you and yes, please keep me informed on the publication details.
        Thanks again!

        Like

  6. Robyn Elliot

    Paul, appertaining to your testament of protestation as you conveyed the breadth, depth and tonnage of your views upon the usage of fancy words as opposed to simpler forms of expression, I am here to commend you on your efforts. Most sincere am I in my response. Most sincere indeed. In fact, I am very, very, very, very, very, sincere.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Hint: They’re Not from the News – M. Miles

  8. Catherine

    I have read articles telling writers not to use the word very. It’s bull honestly. I write how I talk most times. When I do my fiction, my characters use whatever words I come up with. I even use the word very up here in comments. Old habits are hard to break or maybe I’m VERY stubborn 😀

    Like

    Reply
    1. paulabroome427 Post author

      And I think you’re also VERY creative and intelligent! You know, I do receive a lot of good, honest advice from HOW TO WRITE articles and books, but there’s always that hint or downright glare of aggressiveness that grates on my writer’s nerves! So thank you! We’re definitely on the same side of the writing fence! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    2. Sha'Tara

      I think that if anyone actually needs advice on writing, they are not working from their deepest inspiration, but from the surface of words, aligning letters in their alphabet soup. Having said that, here’s my advice – to me, and me only, and use at your own risk: write like your life depends on it. Never ask why, never! Rush into the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next chapter. Let it be a waterfall of crashing words. Feel the story unspool from your mind, the relief, the quasi-erotic pleasure of the freedom to say whatever you want to say because it’s not you saying, it’s him, her, them. Run. Don’t stop or hesitate. You’re walking a collapsing ice bridge over a river and the other side is not visible until you reach it: the end. Now take a break, lower your adrenaline flow, go back to the beginning and start fixing the bridge so it will stay up for anyone else crossing it. This part requires discipline because it can literally destroy the effect achieved in the original race across sea and desert, down city street, over mountains and through uncharted woods.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sha'Tara

        I’m glad you like it. Put me in front of a keyboard and I start to vibrate… You see, in the “real world” – that’s where other entities resembling me reside and move around, I keep my emotions severely in check… and save them for “here” on the computer, to throw out in cyber space. Isn’t that what it’s for?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Selina Stambi

    Fabulous advice, Paul. Spoken like an English professor, and a good one, I might add! I grew up on a diet of classics, particularly the Victorians, and had to unlearn my penchant for reams of adverbs and adjectives in every line. I’m a convert now, and a huge advocate of clean, simple, writing … and yes, I love that my characters can say VERY, VERY much!!! Loved the post. Have a wonderful weekend. Smiles 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s