WestWard Quarterly, the Magazine of Family Reading Writer's Workbench

Finding the Right Word

Words have nuances of meaning. For instance, to describe a sound you might use whisper, squeal, squeak, trumpet, honk, fizz-sizzle, grate, rasp, purr, creak, rustle swish, whir, drone, hum-buzz, clang, chime-blare, crunch, rumble, roar, thunder, hiss, ring, etc. Watch your action words and your descriptive words to create imagery.

You really need a good thesaurus, which is a book of synonyms. I recommend Roget’s Superthesaurus by Marc McCutcheon, which is the one I use. And while we’re mentioning handy tools for writing, a good rhyming dictionary is a must. I recommend The Writer’s Rhyming Dictionary by Langford Reed.

If you work with a computer, your word processing program will have a thesaurus. In Microsoft Word look under Tools and click Language, and then Thesaurus. In WordPerfect, it’s Tools and Thesaurus. But the books are helpful when you are not working at your computer, and often you can find more variety under the cross-references.

If you are writing a rhyming poem, you have two objectives. Find the precise word, keeping in mind that you must find a corresponding accurate word for rhyming. This occurs only at the end of a line — but keep in mind that all words are important.

In poetry there are no “throw-away” words. Every word either builds or tears down the idea you are attempting to communicate. If you tend to be too “wordy,” using more words than necessary, a good discipline would be to read some of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and notice the precise structure she used in constructing her poems. Every word is there for a purpose. There are no unnecessary words.

Of course, this takes work. But nothing well done is ever accomplished without work. Look at the hours a pianist practices to perfect his or her art. Look at successful people in any field of endeavor, and you will discover that they put in long hours of work.

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Great accomplishments depend not so much on ingenuity as on hard work.” This is a saying of the American inventor Thomas Edison, who gave us the light bulb along with 1300 other inventions. This man had only three months of formal education and struggled with deafness.

Remember, practice (and work) makes perfect.

Happy Writing!