I first wrote this several years ago, but I believe it is still true today for anyone who wishes to write well.
It‘s been said that words are pegs to hang ideas on. But if you’re a writer and you wish your writing to flow, to express your ideas in the best way possible, then you need to choose the best pegs to showcase your ideas . A writer should think of words as either diamonds or stones. The great writers made sure they included a fair share of diamonds among the stones in their sentences.
By this, I don’t mean to shun the use of common words, but to choose those that evoke an idea in the most effective way, words that have strong connotations. For instance, you might want to describe an old man walking down the street. You say, ‘The old man walked down the street.’ Picture that in your mind’s eye. Then change it to, ‘The old man shuffled down the street.’ Only one word altered, but isn’t it a different picture?
You don’t need to use long words to impress, a good writer chooses simple words full of meaning – strong words. Take Shakespeare’s, ‘the sands are number’d that make up my life’. Simple words – big idea. He knew a thing or two about words.
Sounds can make words sing. Listen to them, let them run through your consciousness. Beyond the sense of a word is its sound, its spirit. Words strung together to show their melodies, playing off one another, can build like a piece of music, creating a beautiful harmony. If you read a passage that flows easily, pleasing your ear and conveying its message with simplicity, then the writer has achieved his goal – his words will live!
Of course, words are not just written, we speak them all the time. And how you say your words can categorize you, every time you open your mouth.
Take ‘Pygmalion’, later updated and presented as that all-time favourite musical, ‘My Fair Lady’. Who can forget the shrill tones of the early Eliza Doolittle as she tells her would-be teachers, ‘Eeeeooowww, I washed me ‘ands ‘n face afore I come, I did.’ There’s no mistaking her as the grubby little flower-seller from Covent Garden. However, after Professor Henry Higgins, who intones ‘the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain’ ad nauseam, finishes with her she is taken for a lady – and dubbed a princess.
Such is the power of words!