As I slowly dip my toe into the world of blogging, novel writing etc, I am finding myself getting excited whenever I come across a new word I can use. I think I have always been a lover of words, and have especially enjoyed naming everything, from my pets, to cars, and even other people’s businesses, but the more I write, the more I love the incredible ways in which we can paint pictures with words.
It’s not enough to be a wordsmith and great crafter of words. It’s not enough to be a walking dictionary and a paid up member of the grammar police. As a writer, you need to be a lover of words, as excited to discover new ways of communicating as a painter is to discover a new brush stroke or colour.
Here are some words that I have recently discovered or rediscovered. Some may be new to you, some may be familiar. I think they are rather beautiful.
Petrichor: The pleasant, earthy, smell that frequently accompanies rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. My current favourite word in the English language, particularly as it is also one of my favourite smells.
Myriad: Countless or extremely great number of people or things. This is a word I know, but not one I frequently use. It gives me one more alternative to ‘lots of’ which is always a good thing!
Topsy-turvy: Upside-down. How can you not like this word?
Proprietors: The owners of a business or land. I realised when I read this somewhere that I nearly always say ‘owners’ and so have challenged myself to use a bit of variety moving forward.
Habeus Corpus: A legal writ through which someone can report illegal detention or imprisonment. Yes I know it’s Latin, and literally means ‘have his body’, but the English language is made up of a lot of other languages. Loving words does not necessarily mean restricting yourself to the language you speak.
What can we do to grow in our love of words?
- Dictionary.com’s app with word of the day. I have this app on my phone and just live with the word of the day. Sometimes they don’t really speak to me and that’s ok. Sometimes I am familiar with them but don’t use them very often and get excited thinking of the different ways in which they can be incorporated into my writing. Sometimes they are totally new, and it’s like finding a new friend.
- Play Scrabble with open dictionaries. I regularly get together with friends to play Scrabble. It is a very relaxed affair, with everyone having laminated sheets with two and three letter words, and Scrabble dictionaries open. Not only do I learn a lot from the other players, I also learn a lot by perusing the materials available to me. However I have yet to use the word ‘qi’ in my writing. Wait, I just did!
- Read more. I don’t just read novels. I read everything. Here are some ideas:
- Literature of all kinds, both fiction and non-fiction.
- Speeches by famous people (for example I love reading Winston Churchill’s speeches).
- Newspapers and magazines. (Even ones your don’t agree with as they can help you create characters you don’t like.)
- Product packaging. Sounds bizarre but it can be useful in giving ideas about anyone trying to sell something in your writing, and for descriptions of things.
- Listen to people when they speak, paying attention to the words and phrases they use. This is great for learning to write good dialogue.
Above all else, we need to keep writing. I have to keep reminding myself not to write to produce, whether it be a novel, biography, article or speech. Instead I need to write to create; to paint pictures with words. The more I do, the more I will grow, and the more I will fall in love with words.