I was listening to the news on my way to work one day and heard a story about bird flu and how the authorities were managing the outbreak. One announcer used the term “depopulate” to describe the actions taken. It totally startled me out of my mood, you know the one, you’re driving, attending to the road and only a part of your brain listens to the music or news. Well, this definitely made me start thinking of the power of words. The local news shifted to national and oddly enough, the same story was followed by the national press. This time, the word used to describe the situation was that the authorities planned to “cull” the flock that was infected to prevent a larger outbreak.
While both words were accurate in describing the actions taken, I vastly preferred the word cull. To me, it was more accurate, more succinct and definitely more powerful. While the first story definitely pulled my attention to the situation, the word depopulate somehow struck me as vague and too politically correct.
Which brings me to the focus of my blog today. How writers find the right words to use in their books and what happens when a word isn’t the perfect word to describe a situation. I suspect the same thing happens to a reader that happened to me. It jars them away from the situation. But in this case, the situation would be the world we create as writers.
I love words, it’s one of the reasons I love to write. I love the sound of words, the way the play upon the tongue as you utter them. I love to read them, hearing them in my mind while at the same time watching the scene they describe unfold in my brain. But when I read a jarring, misspelled or grammatically incorrect word, I’m pulled from the scene and examine the word or the sentence itself. Often, when I’m editing my own work.
So, in closing, I hope I use the best, most descriptive and most succinct words possible in my next releases. And I hope I don’t jar a reader from the carefully constructed world I’ve built just by using a careless phrase or term.