Us writers love language and it is our natural playground. There are few more satisfying things than a well crafted sentence which creates a setting or evokes an emotion in the reader.
However, there are times when we scribblers can go to far with stunning verbiage. I feel I have at worst an average vocabulary, yet there are times when I’ve been in conversation with colleagues or friends and have used a word or two which has made their eyes visibly glaze over.
As a reader myself there are few things than can pull me out of a story quicker than a word I don’t understand or even guess the context of. If the word is the name for something ancient and unknown to me, then I expect the writer to inform me of the object and its purpose, look or attraction. Being fair most do at some point in the novel. However the introduction of words which are not used in everyday language outside of a laboratory or space station have been known to cause a curse to erupt from my lips.
Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with words and finding double meanings for words so that I can twist them to my own purpose. It’s the usage of innocuous, inconsequential and hitherto un-encountered syntax which elicits the explosions of diatribe aimed at thesaurus swallowing linguists.
Don’t even get me started on those writers who litter their work with foreign languages with no explanation. I know that the British are not renowned for mutli-lingualism but there’s no need to ram the point home every other page. If you’re going to insert another language into a book written in English either explain it or kick its bahookey (A Scottish term for bottom) [see what I did there] right off the page. Local dialect and terminology is acceptable provided that an explanation is forthcoming.
As a writer I try to limit my use of long or obscure words. Yes I have picked up a dictionary or thesaurus to find a better word than the one I’ve written, but I will not use the replacement if I am in any way unsure of its connotation or possible interpretation. I try to keep my language relevant and use everyday language which is comprehensible to the majority of readers.
To summarise this post I would have to say “don’t use words which nobody else will understand” and yes I am aware that I have taken over four hundred words when the eight in quotation marks would have sufficed.
Feel free to tell me I’m right, wrong or even full of merde via the comments below. First person to point out the irony of the language I’ve used in the post will win a signed air guitar.