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Crossman’s Crash Course for Writing with Style — Step Three: Use Lively Words!

The first few posts in this series have touched on the elements I think are important to writing with style – if you missed them please feel free to check out my overview, my blog on grammatical accuracy (yes, it’s key!) and my explanation of the importance of smooth linkages. While those topics might seem too technical to qualify as stylistic elements, I can tell you that if there’s anything nearly 30 years of writing have taught me, it’s that strong structure and solid technicals always underpin great writing.

Today’s blog post deals with something that is probably a little more fun, however, and that is the importance of liveliness in writing. Lively word choice keeps people interested in what they’re reading and complements the solid foundation you’ve laid by embellishing it. I’m not talking about anything grandiose or outlandish — just the little touches that add a whisper of surprise or interest. Like the word “whisper,” for example.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Most of us have a standard range of words that we insert into our documents almost by rote, and expanding that range requires us to expand our vocabulary. That almost always involves the use of a dictionary or a thesaurus, which requires more effort and more time. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online has a great “word of the day” service that I find is a painless way to make friends with words I might not ordinarily encounter.

And I use my thesaurus often. Although the one that comes with Word is reasonably good, I still resort to my dog-eared copy of Roget’s Thesaurus from time to time. Mine has a complicated numbering system that I’m sure was set up by a mathematician, but it is an absolutely brilliant way to explore my native tongue.

A writer’s style is something like a signature and as you develop your style, you find that your word choice is reflective of your outlook. This can get stale. You’ll want to round out what you offer readers by taking chances every now and then so you can bring variety and color to your work. Even if what you’re writing is a thoroughly standard business report, a little variety will help engage your audience and keep them reading. Choose boring words and, yes you’ll bore your audience. None of us pays superb attention when we’re bored? You want to make it easy for your audience to embrace your topic!

My next posting in this series is about how to create depth when you’re writing. Stay tuned! And if you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them along in the space below!

Want to learn more about how I can help you along your writing continuum? Contact me today.


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