116 votes

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

Yes, agnostics and atheists can do anything they want with religious language! I am another atheist, and a practicing scientist at a university. I don't regard any entity in any religion as real or ...
  • 96.9k
104 votes
Accepted

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

I've found that the main key to unfamiliar words -- and this applies to jargon in technical writing as much as it does to foreign or made-up words in fiction -- is density. The example in the XKCD ...
71 votes
Accepted

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

Start with a word ending in 'ing'. e.g. Opening the door, he stepped into the dark. Chasing a ball he thought he'd lost, the dog ran through the rain-swept streets. Start with a preposition (so a ...
  • 7,846
71 votes

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

These terms are very often used to mean magic, and I've never before encountered anybody discussing the ancient greek etymology. You are totally safe using the modern meanings. In general, words ...
67 votes

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

I think this is a really interesting question - because if we avoid using advanced vocabulary with children, then when are they supposed to learn it? I think the answer is that it's a matter of ...
60 votes

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

Whether you're allowed: yes, you're allowed to use metric in US English. Whether it's a good idea depends very much on details of the setting, and of your intended audience. If your story is set in ...
  • 5,207
60 votes
Accepted

How to refer to siblings who are friends?

You’re using unequal terms interchangeably. Imagine Alice is Bob’s sister and also does his taxes. The former is a personal relationship and the latter is professional; for most people those belong ...
49 votes
Accepted

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

You don't always have to tag "said" after every line said. You can do something like: "Why do you always look at me that way?" She turned her head away, embarrassed as she recalled all the times ...
  • 4,571
49 votes

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

There are at least as many problems with "pyromagus": "Pyro-", "necro-" and "-mancy" are Greek, "magus" is Latin. "-mancy" (manteia) is a practice, a magus is a person. Magus is, originally, a ...
47 votes

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

asvarans, vaspahrs, sardars and ostandars. I struggled with this for a different reason, I didn't want to invoke medieval Europe titles either, because little else in my story was like that, I didn't ...
  • 96.9k
46 votes
Accepted

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

First, I would not do the "translation" of your last sentence. Second, you need to understand that swear words are typically one or two syllables, and the audio effect needs to be somewhat similar. ...
  • 96.9k
44 votes

Is calling a character a "lunatic" or "crazy" ableist when it is in reference to their erratic behavior?

Some may call it so, and they might be right, but it's of no consequence. Creating realistic and believable and sympathetic characters means that sometimes those characters have negative character ...
  • 8,750
39 votes
Accepted

Tiptoe or tiphoof? Adjusting words to better fit fantasy races

Adapt to the culture. If it's a town of demons and the narrator is implied to be well familiarized with them, then you can go with 'tiphoof' and other such expressions, coining new idioms for the ...
  • 15.4k
34 votes

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

There are two ways religious concepts appear in speech. First, there are common expressions: "Oh my god", "go to hell", etc. Those are a natural part of our speech, we hear them all the times and do ...
34 votes

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

It's ultimately up to you, but you don't want your ancient Persia overridden by knights. You may as well make them wear full plate armor instead of describing whatever garment was in use in that age ...
34 votes
Accepted

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

It's never good style to depart from standard usage without a good reason. It just makes things harder to read and understand. In your example, the meaning is clear, but there's nothing about it ...
  • 56.2k
34 votes

A torrent of foreign terms

A story like this is about what the MC experiences, and should be told in the MC's voice, but it's also important to consider your readers' experiences as they read, right? This seems like a case ...
30 votes

Tiptoe or tiphoof? Adjusting words to better fit fantasy races

I think Secespitus hits the nail on the head by saying: People will rarely look at the letter of a word means. They know what "tiptoeing" implies and that is all they need to imagine the scene. ...
  • 9,903
30 votes
Accepted

How do you use the interjection for snorting?

It would look more natural outside of dialog, to me. Unless the character says "snort." "He's really attractive." Megan snorted. She grabbed a napkin and wiped the coffee off the table. "Uh, ...
  • 23.8k
28 votes

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

This depends on the character. You're quite right to realize that the set of images a character will use, should depend a lot on that character's "inner lexicon"; on the particular imagery that ...
  • 28.1k
28 votes

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

Since you have a real-world justification, why not use that same justification in your fictional setting? If you want to make it a thing, have a character say "aluminum" and the other characters can ...
  • 25.5k
26 votes

How to expand my vocabulary?

Read, read, read, read. The only way to learn words is to ingest them, to feed on them. The only place where to look is books. Read a lot of different authors, styles, genres, ages. The more words ...
  • 3,827
25 votes

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

The easiest way to do this is have a character use it, and another character (like yourself, not knowing the word at that age) ask what it means, or look it up, or otherwise figure out what it means. ...
  • 96.9k
24 votes

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

"Character said" really is one of the best ways to tag dialog. When we write we are hyper-aware of our word choices and sentence structure. We don't like to repeat ourselves and we hate seeing all ...
  • 439
24 votes

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

I am going to agree with Surtsey here. I do not think single word titles are the prevalent. I still think I can answer the question of what are the benefits of using a single word title. I am also ...
  • 3,729

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