Seven things I know about writing:
- 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.
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.
- 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 another to be read.
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.
- 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.
- “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.)
- All words are made up words:
- Some are long well-established in our language.
- Others are neologisms necessitated by changes in society (e.g. “crowdsourcing” – gaining funding for a project by turning to huge numbers of people who contribute small amounts each).
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.
[This post first ran in May 2014. What writing tip can you add to the list?