7 Things To Know About Writing And Words (which may or may not help your writing)

Seven things I know about writing:


“Woah! Woah, I say! Why isn’t this horse stopping?!” “Wikipedia

  1. It’s spelled “whoa”, not “woah”. Horses know the difference. For those who don’t get the horse reference, please refrain from using the word “whoa” no matter how you choose to spell it.
  2. We spell the word “minuscule” with two U’s and not two I’s because we’re talking about something that is minute, not something that is minimal.

  3. Ernest Hemingway is known for short sentences with plain words, James Joyce for long ones with obscure words. They’re both famous. Don’t let anyone tell you that your writing must conform to one style or anther to be read.

    <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Latin_U.svg">Ernest Hemingway</a>

    Ernest Hemingway, also dead and famous

  4. James Joyce

    James Joyce, a dead but famous writer

    Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce are both dead. Don’t wait until you’re dead to write, no matter what length of sentence you wish to employ.

  5. Mark Twain (apparently awaiting the right word)

    Mark Twain (apparently awaiting the right word)

    Mark Twain said that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. I say you shouldn’t let fear of the almost right word keep you from getting something down on the page even if it does end up looking like a lightning bug. Some people really like lightning bugs.

  6. “Female” and “male” are etymologically unrelated,

    which leads me to say that etymology is handy for writers. Most dictionaries contain decent etymologies for the words in them. Most dictionaries also define “etymology”. Dictionaries are useful that way. More writers should use them. (See items 1 and 2 above.)

  7. All words are made up words:
    1. Some are long well-established in our language.
    2. Others are neologisms necessitated by changes in society (e.g. “crowdsourcing”, the name for the recent practice of gaining funding for a project by turning to huge numbers of people who contribute small amounts each).
    3. Lewis Carroll reading made up words

      Lewis Carroll reading made up words

      Still other words are nonce words, created for an intended single use (such as Lewis Carroll’s “frabjous”).

Making up words makes me feel smartified. Keeping this list in mind when you write might make people think you’re smartified too. Then again it might not.


What writing tip can you add to this list?


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32 Responses to 7 Things To Know About Writing And Words (which may or may not help your writing)

  1. janehinrichs says:

    I love #7! I love it! I love Lewis Carroll’s writing too. I now want to write something funnylicious but cannot think of anything!

  2. Laura says:

    Great points!! : ) I’d add that to write you must read.

    “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading. In order to write, a man will turn over half a library…” Samuel Johnson

    “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King

    • Tim says:

      Reading helps my writing, that’s for sure. I wonder though if writers are by genre people who like to read and that’s why this advice keeps popping up from the famous authors? Oh well, I’m still going to read!

    • Adriana says:

      Good tip, Laura. To me, writing is a way to take part in a conversation that got started long ago. I read to listen; I write to speak. The more I read, the more I see proof that there is “nothing new under the sun.” I take comfort in that! I’m grateful to have my turn to experience life and to write about it! 🙂

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thank you for these helpful tips, Tim! I like #3 the best. I would add this one (though actually it’s pretty much the same as #3): “Write as you can, not as you can’t.”

  4. Adriana says:

    #4 is my favorite: “Don’t wait until you’re dead to write . . .”
    That’s sound advice.

    I would add: Don’t be afraid to use up all your great ideas. Say to yourself, “There’s more where that came from!” Say it aloud with a tone of confidence — even if you are not at all sure if there’s anything left where that came from.

    • Tim says:

      Good advice, Adriana. I think it was Will Rogers who said that the only thing he needed when he ran out of ideas was to open the newspaper. Ideas are all around us!

  5. caramac54 says:

    God bless the lightening bug – whoa!

  6. Fun list! However, I think miniscule might be an acceptable variant. According to this blog:
    http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/5350/miniscule-vs-minuscule : According to the OED, the first citation of the miniscule variant is from 1871, so this is a form that has been around quite a long time.

    The OED says the following about miniscule:

    Variant of MINUSCULE adj., probably arising partly from shift of stress from the second to the first syllable, and partly from association with MINIATURE adj., MINIMUM adj., etc

    • Tim says:

      Aack! Etymological nonsense! 😉

      Then again, since all words are made up words I suppose as long as everyone knows what you mean it doesn’t matter how you spell it. Except for the spelling “woah”; I have to draw the line somewhere.

      • But of course it matters how you spell a word and knowing what words mean or else you are Through the Looking Glass. It is a matter of deciding at what point a variant or error becomes common for so long that becomes an acceptable standard.Hopefully is an example I think where the erroneous became accepted as in meaning I hope instead of filled with hope. Thanks for your post. I enjoyed it. Just made me wonder about mini vs mini. Eenie meenie minie mo. You choose the way that it should go.

  7. lauradroege says:

    “I say you shouldn’t let fear of the almost right word keep you from getting something down on the page even if it does end up looking like a lightning bug.”

    True. I let fear get in the way of completing a novel manuscript for years; I believed that I needed to have all the right words in the right order the first time I wrote it. So I never finished the stories I started. Then I read this advice: “Just write the (bleep) first draft.” The author continued, saying that (bleep) can be edited, but a blank page cannot. And that all first drafts are really, really bad. And so I ploughed through and finished a first draft, all 300 pages and 100,000 words of horrible prose that sometimes looked a bit like a lightning bug. It took a year, considering that I’d just had my second child and was sleep-deprived and depressed and not quite mentally stable. There were holes in the plot, inconsistencies in the characters, and blanks where I couldn’t find the right word and just skipped over that part of the sentence. But it was finished. Then I could edit.

    (Sorry for the long comment. This list just reminded me of that advice.)

  8. Deanna says:

    Good tips! #4 made me chuckle but is also a kick in the pants to get me to write, as I enjoy writing but tend to let other things crowd it out of my schedule.

    • Tim says:

      I figure if I die before I get something written it won’t be because I didn’t have the time, Deanna. It’ll be because I chose to do something else with that time.

  9. stephanielynn75 says:

    I would say that one thing writers should remember is that no matter how romantic it may seem to write an entire manuscript with a fountain pen on onion skin paper, the truth is, it’s a terrible idea. Trust me on this.

  10. stephanielynn75 says:

    Reblogged this on Garden Variety Neurosis Redux and commented:
    Sage advice for writers, offered at no charge by the one and only Tim Fall. I guarantee, you will not find advice like this anywhere else. For good reason.

  11. betsydecruz says:

    I really like # 3 and #4. Funny and practical. One of my favorite writing tips is from Ann LaMott: All good writers start with sh*tty first drafts. It encourages me to go for it and get something down on the page, rather than wait for perfect. I can always revise it later.

  12. Laruspress says:

    Simply fun to read; thanks for making that which we strive for so earnestly fun to look at! (not sure I said that correctly….)

  13. Pingback: 7 Things to Know About Writing | Scribblepreach

  14. Funny and true, thanks for that Tim! Of course as I’m not a native english speaker / writer, the first ones where kind of new to me :-), and interesting! An important point for me: write what your heart burns for. Don’t try to fit in the market, or write what everybody seems to read and what sells. Perhaps people just wait for the one thing your heart wants to write but you don’t because you are afraid nobody will care, buy etc. Just write it out :-)!

  15. I absolutely love your posts, Tim. You always get me laughing or thinking or both 🙂

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