Where Is That Dictionary? – One Writer’s Random Thoughts

Have you ever wondered whether or not your writing should sound a little more grown up?

I don’t know about you but whenever I read a really good book I’m always impressed with the wonderful array of words some writers use.

The trouble is, I then look at my stories and begin to doubt any ability I might have.

images-13One of the problems is reading other people’s work and then feeling a need to dash off  and make my own work more ‘flowery’. At times like this I rush to get the dictionary down off the shelf and begin searching for bigger, more grown up words!

Then I come to my senses and go back and re-read Stephen King’s book – ‘On Writing’, this always makes me feel so much better. He comes up with a number of heartening ideas, such as:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.

What a great thought – being ashamed of short words! I think that might be my problem.

When you think about this,  it makes sense – when we talk to one another, our purpose is to get some sort of message across, rarely are you trying to score points with the other person, trying to see who can come up with the most complicated words.

Stephen King goes on to say:

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word – of course you will, there’s always another word – but it probably wont be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.

One of the reasons that I keep going back to this book is because it makes me feel much more comfortable with my own writing.

Whenever I write a story, however long or short (more recently they have mainly been short!) I feel that I am trying to tell a story. I try to use words that I would use  if I was actually telling the story to an audience.

It would be quite easy to draft out a story then grab a thesaurus and change as many words as possible. The problem is that it would then cease to be my words. It would be a story written by a thesaurus!

I leave you with this idea:

Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story ….. to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

I think I will put back on the shelf, the dictionary that I have just dusted off. At least until my next bout of uncertainty!


  1. atrm61

    Ha!ha!Mike,these are just what I feel and hey SK is one of my most favourite authors too-no wonder 🙂 I enjoy most of your stories and hope you continue in your own inimitable fashion!


    1. Mike

      Many thanks for your comments.
      Strangely enough I’ve never read any of Stephen Kings books, something I really should remedy.
      His ‘On Writing’ though is great and I’m always dipping into it.


  2. piarve

    Haha that is always on my mind, especially since I know my vocabulary needs an upgrade. I always try to remember everyone has their own writing style which best reflects themselves.


  3. Mike

    Thanks for your comments Piarve.
    If you haven’t read ‘On Writing’ it is well worth having a look at. As you say, developing your own writing style is so important. I think it took me a while to find mine and not to try and emulate others.


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