How to Use Better Word Choice in Stories

Two Methods:Choosing Words AppropriatelyRevising For Better Word Choice

Word choice, or diction, is essential to stories. The words you choose set the tone for a story. They clue your reader in to what kind of story it’s going to be. And they tell your reader exactly who the story is intended to be read by. If you want your word choice to be better, you can think about tone, sound, and metaphor, consider your age group, and simplify and revise.

Method 1
Choosing Words Appropriately

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    Focus on tone in your diction. The tone is just the mood of a story, how it feels, and your word choice plays into setting it up.
    • For instance, “surly” and “morose” are listed as synonyms.
    • However, “surly” focuses more on irritability and gruffness, while “morose” focuses more on sadness.
    • They have very different connotations. A connotation is the meaning or the feeling that goes beyond the dictionary definition of the word.
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    Pick words that cater to your tone. When choosing words, pick ones that play into your tone, rather than work against it.
    • A dark, noir-type story needs dark words, not ones that bring to mind rainbows and sunshine.
    • On the other hand, a cheerful story needs cheerful words.
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    Consider your age group to adjust your vocabulary. Focus on the group you’re writing towards.
    • One way to tell what kind of vocabulary you should use is to read in the genre you’re writing in, as it will help you to develop a sense of the vocabulary level.
    • You don’t want to use extremely long words for 6-year-olds, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw in the occasional long word in a kid’s book, as it helps them improve their vocabulary.
    • The same holds true for adult books. Certain genres (such as romance) have simpler vocabularies than other genres (literary fiction, poetry).
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    Use alliteration to add spice to your prose. While alliteration (the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words) isn’t used as often in stories, it can still be beneficial to your writing.
    • It can make it sound more poetic.
    • Try using it in places where it is not forced.
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    Think about sound as you are writing. The sounds of the words you choose should reflect the mood of the story.
    • Is this a harsh story? Then your word sounds should reflect that with harsh, guttural consonant sounds, such as “kick,” “punk,” and “puncture.”
    • If it is a softer story, try softer sounds, like “hush,” smoothing,” and “wash.”
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    Use metaphorical language to add interest to your word choice. You don’t always need to use a literal word to describe something.
    • For instance, you don’t have to say “The sky was blue.”
    • Instead, you can say, “The sky was the color of the ocean just before dusk.”
    • It’s longer, but it gives the reader a better picture of what the sky actually looked like at the time.

Method 2
Revising For Better Word Choice

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    Simplify your writing when possible. Don’t make your writing overly complicated.
    • Keep it simple, because your reader does not want to look up every other word.
    • Use big words like a potent spice; spread them sparingly throughout your writing. They will make your writing better, while still keeping the writing enjoyable for the reader.
    • Cut out most adverbs. Most of the time, they aren’t needed, so use them sparingly throughout your writing.
    • Look for other unnecessary words, such as “like,” “so,” and “then.” Cut out what’s not needed.
    • Cut out repetition and don’t use the same word over and over.
    • Your reader will get tired of reading words such as “like” over and over again, so change up your word choice to keep your diction natural.
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    Keep diction in mind during revisions. Don’t just think about diction while you’re writing, consider it while you’re revising.
    • Look at each word and consider how it fits into the whole.
    • Is it really the best word for the sentence? For the story?
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    Think about your audience during revisions. If you have a wide, general audience, consider keeping words that will appeal to a variety of people.
    • For instance, avoid slang, since slang tends to be generation-specific.
    • For a wide audience, keep it simpler, but don’t be afraid to add in a few bigger words in places.
    • However, if you are writing for a particular age group, feel free to add in some slang terms, as long as you are sure you know how to use them right.
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    Choose the most specific word possible. During revisions, make your word choice more precise by finding the words that most specifically express your meaning.
    • For instance, don’t just say the streetlight was “strange.” Say it was “eerie.”
    • “Eerie” has a much spookier effect than “strange.”
    • Similarly, if you are writing a sentence about rainbows, choosing words related to color makes sense, because it plays on the theme: “The rainbow stretched across the watery blue sky like a handful of violets and roses arched over a vase of water.”
    • By choosing flowers that have color names instead of just saying “wildflowers,” you’re reinforcing the subject of the sentence.
    • In another example, if you are writing about a fight, you want to choose visceral words to describe it, ones that metaphorically punch the reader in the gut: “He lashed out with one arm, blindly punching into the dark before connecting flesh to flesh.”
    • Words like “lashed,” “punching,” and “flesh” all create vivid imagery in the readers’ minds.

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Categories: Better Writing