Choosing Just the Right Words — Guest: Kathy Steinemann

While I’m recovering from my latest surgery this week, I’m grateful for another guest blog today. Kathy Steinemann is here to talk about word choice, but not in the way we usually think of the issue.

We often talk about word choice in reference to our voice, but choosing the right word can be complex. We need to consider our characters’ voices, which can conflict with our voice, and sometimes we might want to break grammar rules for the sake of voice. In other words, knowing how to apply “the rules” with voice and word choice can require a tricky balance.

The problem increases if we unintentionally choose the wrong word from our brain, whether due to a lack of knowledge or just simple typos. (And typos can get the best of us no matter our knowledge level, so we can’t give ourselves a pass on the issue Kathy discusses in this post.)

Readers won’t trust that we’re breaking grammar rules on purpose if our whole story is riddled with errors. To make a statement with purposeful errors—such as for the sake of a character’s voice—readers have to recognize that we don’t make those mistakes accidentally.

Choosing just the right words requires us to know English usage and grammar rules, consider author and character voice, avoid typos, and of course, possess a large vocabulary so we can pick the best word from our brain. Kathy’s fun post today challenges us to find all the wrong words in an excerpt and then points out why we might choose them anyway.

Please welcome Kathy Steinemann! *smile*

*****

Reader Gripe:
Can You Guess What It Is?

By Kathy Steinemann

~~~~~

W A R N I N G

The following article contains explicit errors.

Reader discretion is advised.

If you continue past this point, your eyes might recover with rest, application of cold compresses, and avoidance of repeat exposure.

Proceed at your own risk.

~~~~~

You’ll see an excerpt below, an excerpt that would frustrate readers. In fact, they might abandon a book containing similar narrative, and never purchase anything else written by an author who is guilty of this no-no.

Introduction to Excerpt:

The following paragraphs are based on sentences and phrases I’ve bookmarked in various novels over the years. Can you find all the errors?

After reading, consider the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • How many occurrences are there?
  • How would you correct the mistakes?

Excerpt:

(Edited to Preserve Anonymity of Writers)

Pauline stared at the note, curiosity peaked. She opened it and read the message: “Just one weak. Remember the place? I’ll meat you their. Don’t forget the money. I may seam nice, but just because I haven’t killed anyone yet doesn’t mean you won’t be the first.”

Her stomach serged. Bile rows into her throat. The next thing she new, she was doubled over the toilet and wretching up her breakfast.

After several minutes, she stood and liened against the wall. She was still realing and could feel the vanes in her neck throbbing in thyme with her pulse. The sealing seamed like it was pressing on her head.

Ugh. Her breath wreaked, and all the vomiting had aggravated her rye neck. She needed her left shoulder as she looked into the mirror. Her reflection looked pail—to pail. How am I going to get threw this?

Did You Find All the Incorrect Homophones?

Homophone: a type of homonym; words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings.

Go back and count them.

You should have found twenty-two. If you didn’t, read it again.

Still stymied?

Read this edited version (mistakes underlined).

Pauline stared at the note, curiosity peaked. She opened it and read the message: “Just one weak. Remember the place? I’ll meat you their. Don’t forget the money. I may seam nice, but just because I haven’t killed anyone yet doesn’t mean you won’t be the first.”

Her stomach serged. Bile rows into her throat. The next thing she new, she was doubled over the toilet and wretching up her breakfast.

After several minutes, she stood and liened against the wall. She was still realing and could feel the vanes in her neck throbbing in thyme with her pulse. The sealing seamed like it was pressing on her head.

Ugh. Her breath wreaked, and all the vomiting had aggravated her rye neck. She needed her left shoulder as she looked into the mirror. Her reflection looked pailto pail. How am I going to get threw this?

Here’s One Solution

Pauline stared at the note, curiosity piqued. She opened it and read the message: “Just one week. Remember the place? I’ll meet you there. Don’t forget the money. I may seem nice, but just because I haven’t killed anyone yet doesn’t mean you won’t be the first.”

Her stomach surged. Bile rose into her throat. The next thing she knew, she was doubled over the toilet and retching up her breakfast.

After several minutes, she stood and leaned against the wall. She was still reeling and could feel the veins in her neck throbbing in time with her pulse. The ceiling seemed like it was pressing on her head.

Ugh. Her breath reeked, and all the vomiting had aggravated her wry neck. She kneaded her left shoulder as she looked into the mirror. Her reflection looked paletoo pale. How am I going to get through this?

But Wait; There’s More!

Dialogue, written notes, texts, and emails should emulate the way real people speak and write. The blackmailer might be uneducated—or an educated person trying to seem uneducated. In either case, the note would contain errors.

In fact, it would likely contain more errors than those in the original excerpt.

Another Rendition of the Note:

“Just one weak, remember the place? I’ll meat you their, don’t forget the money. I may seam nice but just because I ain’t killed no one yet don’t mean you wouldn’t be the first.”

It’s time for detective work.

The blackmailer, although clever enough to:

  • mix up homophones,
  • include a couple of comma splices, and
  • drop in a double negative

couldn’t resist proper usage of apostrophes. A detective might consider this a clue that the writer is well-versed in spelling and grammar.

Takeaway:

Research every word you’re unsure of. Readers and editors will lose patience if they have to repeatedly stop and reread sentences.

P.S.

Here are the contextual definitions of the incorrect homophones and their replacements.

  • Peaked [adj.]: pointed, having a peak
  • Piqued [adj.]: aroused, stimulated [And spell it right: piqued, not picqued, which is obsolete.]
  • Weak [adj.]: frail, feeble
  • Week [noun]: seven days
  • Meat [noun]: the flesh of an animal used as food
  • Meet [verb]: to encounter, make contact with
  • Their [pron.]: possessive case of they
  • There [adv.]: in or at that place
  • Seam (1) [noun]: the stitched area that joins two pieces of fabric or other material
  • Seam (2) [verb]: to join with a seam
  • Seem [verb]: to give the impression of
  • Serge [noun]: a type of fabric
  • Surge [verb]: to move suddenly and forcefully upward or forward
  • Rows [noun]: plural form of row: a line of people or things
  • Rose [verb]: past tense of rise: to come or go up
  • New [adj.]: discovered or created recently or for the first time
  • Knew [verb]: past tense of know: to realize, comprehend
  • Wretch [noun]: a person who is unfortunate, despicable, or unhappy
  • Retch [verb]: to vomit, gag, puke
  • Liened [verb]: past tense of lien: to make a claim against property (until a debt or loan is repaid)
  • Leaned [verb]: past tense of lean: to move into a sloping position
  • Real [adj.]: actual, authentic, genuine
  • Reel [verb]: to lurch, stagger, sway
  • Vanes [noun, plural]: short for weathervanes
  • Veins [noun, plural]: the conduits that transport blood in one’s body
  • Thyme [noun]: an aromatic herb used for seasoning
  • Time [noun]: tempo
  • Sealing [verb]: present continuous tense of seal: to fasten, secure, shut
  • Ceiling [noun]: the top interior surface of a room, compartment, cell, etc.
  • Wreak [verb]: to inflict great harm or damage
  • Reek [verb]: to stink
  • Rye [noun]: a grain used for cereal, flour, or some types of whiskey
  • Wry [adj.]: twisted or distorted
  • Need [verb]: to require something essential or important
  • Knead [verb]: to massage or squeeze with the hands
  • Pail [noun]: bucket
  • Pale [adj.]: lacking color, ashen
  • To [prep.]: toward
  • Too [adv.]: excessively, very
  • Threw [verb]: past tense of throw: to toss, pitch, heave
  • Through [adv.]: from first to last or beginning to end

 

By Kathy Steinemann

Source: jamigold.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

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