Monday, February 4, 2013

Finding the right word

In several posts, I have described skills that you can acquire quickly. In several other posts, I have described skills that you can acquire only slowly.*

Unfortunately, finding the right word, the exactly right word, the best word for what you want to say, is one of the slowly acquired skills.

On this topic, I yield the floor to another blogger, Erik Bergman, “Word Surgeon,” who has published a brief, thoughtful, candid post about finding the right word:

Why it’s important.

Why it’s often difficult.

How to do it.

How an editor can help.

Here’s the post.

The Takeaway: If you care about clarity, you must care about finding the right word. That means you must regard your first draft as, in Mr. Bergman’s phrase, a “half-blind exploration” of what you want to say. That in turn means you must be willing to write at least one more draft. Or five or ten. Like it or not, these attitudes are what differentiates a pro from an amateur.

See disclaimer.

*Whenever budding writers asked veteran speechwriter Mel Grayson how long it takes to write a speech, he would usually reply, “Twenty years.”

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