Questions tagged [word-choice]

This tag should be used for questions about choosing the right words for the context of your writing. Questions about etymology and grammar are off-topic.

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82
votes
9answers
15k views

Using real words from a foreign culture feels like 'Calling a rabbit a “smeerp”'

I'm working on a novel, that's set in pre-Islamic Persia, in the same general way that The Lord of the Rings is set in Britain. (Meaning, it's set in a world all its own, but there's this source of ...
45
votes
15answers
20k views

If I'm writing in US English, am I not allowed to use the metric system?

For example, can I say this if my book is written in US English (in non-dialog): The car was going at least 140 kilometers per hour! Or should I convert them to miles or what have you? It's for a ...
39
votes
7answers
19k views

How do I say that a character said something without resorting to “said Character” every time?

I have one big problem with my writing - when I'm doing dialogue, I find myself writing it and following it with "said Character" quite a lot. I can mix it up sometimes by using a synonym or ...
36
votes
15answers
13k views

Is it acceptable to use words like “heaven” and “god” when the narrator is agnostic?

The main character, and the person whose viewpoint the story is told from, is a scientist and subscribes to agnosticism. And there are sentences in my story like: "Trees stretched into the sky ...
36
votes
8answers
7k views

How do I stop using 'the' to start sentences so much?

Something that always bothers me in my writing is how often I start sentences with the word "the". A terrible nonsensical example: The dog ran through the rain-swept streets, chasing a ball he ...
35
votes
13answers
14k views

Should I use the words “pyromancy” and “necromancy” even if they don't mean what people think they do?

If you look up the exact definition for "pyromancy" or "necromancy" they refer to divination using fire and the dead, respectively. However, if you were to ask a layperson what those words mean, they ...
32
votes
11answers
13k views

Using fake swear words without them seeming out of place to the reader

This is not a question about slang, but about swearing and word creation. I have a character who uses swear words, and this is part of his voice. I do not use real swear words. I want the sense of ...
28
votes
13answers
8k views

Should I avoid “big words” when writing to a younger audience?

I was writing the other day and I used the word "ubiquitous". While I don't think "ubiquitous" is the most egregious example of "Using Big Words To Sound Intelligent", and would be perfectly ...
28
votes
12answers
5k views

Tiptoe or tiphoof? Adjusting words to better fit fantasy races

English is a language invented by humans, for humans. Which means some words don't fit well when you're writing about characters who aren't human. For example: Suppose I write "The demon tiptoed ...
28
votes
7answers
9k views

Is it ok to use “aluminium” in an otherwise American English text?

I am not an American English native (I'm actually a German native speaker) but, when I write, I use the American style of words predominantly. However, I always use aluminium instead of aluminum, ...
25
votes
9answers
4k views

A torrent of foreign terms

I am writing a short story, about a particular field with multiple specific terms, none of which are in English. (Specifically, I'm writing about bullfighting, but the question could apply to other ...
22
votes
15answers
5k views

How much swearing is TOO much? (And how much is not enough?)

I've noticed that some of the most successful writers refrain from using profanity, such as Stephanie Meyer and Norman Mailer. Are readers turned off by swearing in books? More importantly, is it ...
20
votes
5answers
7k views

How much detail is too much?

I've read a few amateur stories online and sometimes the author will include so much detail that the reader gets a little bored or distracted and forgets what the actual story is talking about. How do ...
19
votes
7answers
3k views

Pretty flowers with clunky Latin names

I am writing a fantasy novel set in the Middle East. For multiple reasons related to both plot and atmosphere, I'm using flowers and flowering trees a lot in both descriptions and dialogue. Trouble is,...
17
votes
10answers
10k views

Why are one-word titles so dominant in books, film, and games?

Something I talk about with friends when planning and sharing our projects & media we like is titles - and specifically my disdain for one-word titles. They seem to be more than dominant in ...
16
votes
6answers
9k views

How to refer to siblings who are friends?

Two of the MCs in the novel I'm working on are half-sisters, and also great friends. Currently, when referring to them, I alternate between using "sisters" and "friends". A Beta-Reader pointed out ...
16
votes
12answers
11k views

How do expert writers avoid using “I” when they have to refer to themselves in their article?

How do competent authors, in a refined and perhaps (slightly) formal way, refer to themselves without saying I? I've seen the term "this writer" somewhere. How is it with a native? Are there other ...
16
votes
11answers
5k views

How to write realistic female dialogue

I just can't make my dialogue sound like it's being said by a woman. As a friend of mine pointed out, "This woman talks just like you, Jack." I tried imitating the speech patterns of various females ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Is it typical to add variation to the words used for a character's name to keep it spicy?

A friend has asked me to read through a chapter of his story and give my opinion. Lets say he has two main characters Mr John de Havilland and Mrs Sally de Havilland. I've noticed that the author ...
15
votes
2answers
969 views

Preferred word for “preferred”, “target”, “chosen” in end user support documentation

I'm having trouble finding and sticking to one word to indicate whatever value the user intends to use with my instructions. For example: Select your preferred printer. I'm wondering what ...
15
votes
8answers
6k views

Why does using this “-ing” verb construction make my writing weaker?

I had to write a scholarship essay, wherein I wrote this sentence: Over the ensuing years I read as much as I could, trying to increase my knowledge and understanding of my own language. I sent it ...
15
votes
3answers
24k views

Other options for “had had”? [closed]

Although the use of "had had" is grammatically correct, it doesn't read well and seems awkward to me. Take for example the following sentence: I had had enough of this nonsense and was ready to ...
14
votes
7answers
2k views

Will using real-world cultural vocabulary in a fantasy setting disengage readers?

If I have certain minor rituals/garments/culture tidbits in a fantasy setting that mirror those of Earth, and I describe them using the real-world vocabulary, will that disengage readers from the ...
14
votes
5answers
1k views

Using profanity

I'm working on a war novel (sci-fi). My initial plan was for my MC to start out with a very clean language, almost comically clean, and as the plot progresses and the situation gets more FUBAR, his ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Historical Fiction: using you and thou

Generally speaking, English once used 'you' as the second person plural (equivalent to 'vous' and 'vós') and 'thou' as the second person singular (equivalent to 'tu'). When talking to a person in a ...
14
votes
3answers
884 views

'Filling' up a school setting without making a bunch of new characters?

In a school setting, what is a way to allude that a school is full of students, without making new characters or overusing pre-existing ones? A school is the main setting of a book. The main and ...
13
votes
8answers
2k views

How is simplicity better than precision and clarity in prose?

Many recommend the Hemingway app, which pushes simplicity and the lowest possible reading level. Where I live, an illiterate person is defined as any person who reads below a grade nine level. The ...
13
votes
9answers
2k views

How to expand my vocabulary? [duplicate]

I wanted to write something for a long time. But what I think is, in writing the choice of words plays a very significant role. From where I can learn this thing? I think I don't have enough words in ...
11
votes
4answers
1k views

How do you use the interjection for snorting?

How do you use the interjection for snorting? I was told that "snort" is an onomatopoeia, but I disagree. "Haha" and "Heh heh" would be onomatopoeia, because they are pronounced the way they are ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

Are there situations where using an anastrophe is ill-advised?

I wrote a (unrhymed) couplet, because I couldn't find a good enough example: She ran the comb through her hair ebony As the night fell upon the land of light. Is there a situation where ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Swearing - Censor, allude, or include?

I was reading this thread, but it didn't quite the answer a question I had about creative writing and whether profanity should be used or not, in a way that is best for creative storytelling. Here's ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Should I use the terms “people” “person” “man” and “woman” in fantasy setting?

So I'm writing a story and the setting is that there are two worlds: the world of humans and the world of (insert species name here). Now I'm wondering if it's okay to use the terms/words "people," "...
10
votes
9answers
4k views

When does use of offensive language in a book go from a character trait or to convey emotion to bad use of English skills

I decided to included some offensive language in one of my novels as many novels do. I was wondering however at what point does it become poor dialogue or just plain bad English. Obviously I'm not ...
10
votes
9answers
494 views

Should a non-native writer try to use complex English words?

I am a non-native English user and whenever I write something is it better that I use simple words or some rare and seldomly used words? I mean native-speakers should surely understand basic English ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

How to have a character be nameless for the first few paragraphs of a book?

Let me first explain what is going in in the beginning of the story: My main character belongs to a tribal culture that requires their children pass a rite of passage to earn their name. So I'm kind ...
10
votes
3answers
646 views

Techniques to write for a wider audience

Many years ago, I wrote a short story that used specific information from my cultural background e.g. a belief that if you dream something, it is a form of a vision (superstition, some may say!). This ...
10
votes
6answers
5k views

Is P.S. (Post Script) still useful in the age of email?

"Post script is usually written when a writer forgets to write something on the main body of the letter and wants to add on to what he had written on the letter." But in this age of email and word ...
10
votes
8answers
694 views

How do I sound like Thanos when I write?

This is really a dumb question but as a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have watched Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame so many times. One of the most interesting things that popped ...
10
votes
2answers
397 views

Colloquial speech in pre-modern setting

Following this question, I'm struggling with writing the speech of pre-modern (in my case - 5th century) noble-born children among themselves. Characters who are well-educated would not be making ...
9
votes
9answers
442 views

What's a word for a person who took a very rough story and made it into a book?

I have written a book. Well, actually, my mother-in-law told the story of her experiences as a German forced laborer in the Soviet Union after World War II. This was given in German and recorded ...
9
votes
5answers
1k views

Acquiring vocabulary to write fiction [duplicate]

I am a non-native speaker, learning the English language, and I am already fairly good in reading and writing technical texts. I also enjoy reading fiction books much, but there's one thing that hits ...
8
votes
4answers
981 views

Using “sparkling” as a diminutive of “spark” in a poem

How would you react if you saw the word “sparkling” being used as a diminutive of “spark” in a poem? Although poetry does allow for potentially unlimited flexibility, as a non-native speaker I wonder ...
8
votes
5answers
6k views

Should you avoid offensive hyperbole?

I am writing a first person narrative with a character that is very similar to myself. As such I feel like the narrator should speak and think in language that I, personally, would use. Unfortunately, ...
8
votes
11answers
1k views

Using filler words like 'So', 'Anyway'

I find myself using these words all the time. Now (<-- there's one!), to be clear the context I'm using them is in conversational style writing, on social commentary, or in forum posts like these....
8
votes
3answers
3k views

How to describe a diverse set of characters without falling into purple prose or exoticism?

In my setting, a city was founded by people from all over the world, and developed in almost complete isolation (long version here). The story in itself starts several generations after the foundation....
8
votes
4answers
197 views

Sentence starters for summaries?

I'm writing a technical book (step-by-step sort of book) and noticed that all my summaries start with 'In this chapter we ...'. What would be some other sentence starters that I could use to make the ...
8
votes
2answers
290 views

Moving away from a gender-based analysis

I'm writing a short essay on gender undercurrents of conversations, i.e. how do different people approach communication and problem-solving in their relationships. One way to phrase this is in terms ...
8
votes
6answers
311 views

A cross-[What] kind of romance?

In the scientific taxonomy of Living Things, you have: Life Domain Kingdom Phylum Class etc. down to Species, and maybe thence to Breed. If I were talking about my neighbor's dog who is half ...
7
votes
5answers
380 views

“Too modern” words

In a story set in a fantasy version of 5th century Persia, I've been told by a beta reader that a boy wouldn't call his father "dad", (would use "father" instead), wouldn't say "no spoilers", etc. I ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

Common words to avoid when writing formally

I am rather useless at writing formal English and sometimes find that I can come across informal with my choice of words. So I wondered what common words and phrases should be avoided when writing an ...