Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Words

How many new words have you found yourself using since you became a writer?

There are over 250,000 words in the English language (at the moment), and most people can recognise between 35,000 and 75,000 words, depending on their level of education.

How many of those are used regularly? That depends on who you listen to, but estimates range from 1,000 to 10,000, occasionally more.

Over the last few years, as I have become a more skilled writer, I have found myself using words that I haven't written for a long time. Yesterday, I used the word tortuous and I can't remember the last time I wrote, or said, that word anywhere. Yet, it is a word that I already know and know the meaning of.

Some writers get hung up over how 'few' words they use, or think they use, or how 'few' words they know. Don't.

The best advice on this subject comes from Stephen King, in his book 'On Writing': you already have the vocabulary you need, just use it.

I would add, that you already have a large vocabulary, it's just that you haven't used much of it over the years. The more you write, the more often you need to find synonyms, antonyms etc, the more words you mind will drag up from your brain.

I do use a thesaurus, but most of the time I find that I recognise the words and their meanings. I just haven't used them in a long time.

Don't worry about learning new words, try to remember the ones you already know.


Litgirl01 said...

Good post! I like what you said about using the ones you know. My students love to use big words in the wrong context. Makes me laugh...affects their grade! LOL

Martin Willoughby said...

Print my blog and give to them in class. :-D

T. Anne said...

I love to pepper my literary novels with wonderful words that express what I'm trying to say in an unexpected way. My romantic comedy tends to find lot's of repeats, but then I guess that's more true to life. Great post!

Cindy said...

Oh, good advice. I totally agree. It's not about using bigger words or more complicated ones, it's about using the ones you do know in the right way.

Tess said...

It's the remembering words that gets me. That's the reason I keep word journals. I just have basic words (thicket, lanky, tangerine, frigid) in them...but it helps me remember better. Maybe I'm just getting old....

Litgirl01 said...

They still wouldn't get it! UGH!!