You’ve heard that everyone has their own unique style of writing, but can you identify why? Namely, the reason is word choice, word choice, word choice. Word choice is more that what it sounds like. Obviously, it is the words you choose to use, but there is more to it than that. Word choice is a conscious process. It is the words you consciously choose to use over other, more vague, words.
Writers talk about being “in the flow” when they write. They just write without thinking. This may be true, but later they go back and edit. They exchange vague words for more clear, more emotionally evocative words. Writing is made up of paragraphs, which are made up of sentences, which are made up of words. If you are using drab, boring words, it is going to have a domino effect on the rest of your piece. Your sentences will be boring which, in turn will make your paragraph boring. And you can’t have an article of boring paragraphs turn out interesting. No one will want to read it.
This all sounds good and dandy, but when it comes to actually do it, how does one choose better words? It’s fairly simple. Pull words from your conscious. The average adult has a vocabulary of forty to fifty thousand words, so you have the knowledge, you just have to pull it out of you. You can use the thesaurus if you must, but do not use words that you don’t know, or sort of know. Only use a thesaurus to jog your memory. Otherwise, you will be using words that sound like they mean what you’re talking about, but in the context of your sentence, it will be wrong — and painfully obvious that you used a thesaurus. You want your writing to be smooth, free of bumps and errors. You want the reader to focus on the whole of he issue, but in order to do that, you have to put the work in to make the ride smooth.
There are a few ways to achieve the perfect words for your writing. First of all, remember that detail is your friend. Writing is unlike television, where you can see everything happening. In writing, it is the writer’s responsibility to make sure that the reader can see what is being said. Be clear and concise — bridge that gap between what you are meaning to say, and what you are actually saying. Make sure that you use words you know. Don’t go grasping for words that are just out of your base of knowledge because they will make you sound smaller. In the end, this will be counterproductive, and have quite the opposite effect. Don’t assume that bigger is always better. Just go with what you know. Be conscious of what you are writing, and don’t be afraid to edit a few times. You want the finished product to be polished to just the way you want it. And lastly, if you want to use bigger words and sound smarter, get smarter by reading. You’ll learn new words and how to use them in context.
The most important part of word choice is the decision. It’s choosing the word that best works in your sentence. Remembering this will liven up just about anything you decide to write.