115

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 sacred, and have no problem speaking of them. I know many religious people, including half my extended family, so I am conscious of not offending them, but I don'...


101

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 comic is irritating because it can't get through a single sentence without three new words. The situation is very different if three unfamiliar words are ...


71

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 often do have multiple meanings, and we understand from the context which meaning you are using: if you were writing a historical text about ancient greek ...


69

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 prepositional phrase). e.g. At the time of the incident she was in London. Through the rain the ball was difficult to see. Start with an adverb. e.g. Yesterday, the ...


68

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 quantity and proportion so the reader doesn't lose their flow or end up missing something important if they just keep reading, and also of giving the reader the ...


60

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 the rural United States in, say, the 1950s, none of your characters are likely to think in metric units; even a scientist who regularly uses metric in his work ...


50

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 Zoroastrian fire worshiper. So "pyromagus" is redundant, and "necromagus" is contradictory. Any clearly invented word will can prompt the reader to ask, "wait a ...


46

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 she caught him glancing at her while working. "Because the sparkle in your eye, and the radiance of your smile could only be because you are an angel that ...


46

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. Another word for "fuck" is "intercourse", but it is nearly impossible to use "intercourse!" as a swear word, in places where we would normally say "fuck!". "...


44

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 want to set up reader expectations of knightly chivalry that would not hold in the story. My Solution: Go Modern. I figure you are writing a Persian story in ...


39

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 culture, replacing common phrases with more suitable counterparts, often playing puns with the expressions. On the other hand, if there is a culture clash, with ...


36

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 that makes it preferable to the more standard "ebony hair." There could be many possible "good reasons" to invert word order. With that said, the fact that you ...


35

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 where you need to balance the reader's expected knowledge of the subject matter with the MC's. If I told someone a story about what I did at work (and didn't want ...


34

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 not give them much consideration. An agnostic or an atheist is likely to use them the same way, without giving them a second thought. You can use those freely. ...


33

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 for the sake of simplicity, but at the same time you'de be losing something valuable. It's true that it will be difficult for the reader to familiarize with a ...


30

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, no."


29

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. Imagine being the key word. IMHO, immersion is far more crucial in a story than correctness. The true joy of reading comes when you are so engrossed in a story ...


28

First of all, thinking of some conversations as solely the domain of women and some as solely the domain of men is not going to get you anywhere. For example I know of many female computer programmers, women in a male-dominated career field, who can talk circles around most guys when it comes to discussing computer hardware. I know men who enjoy sharing ...


28

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 character would plausibly reach for and use. It makes sense that, when feeling unsteady on their feet, a sailor might think "like during a storm," a city-dweller ...


28

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 eyeroll or correct as per their personalities. You could also have your infodump characters be from an international organization, and thereby set the standard ...


27

Many competent writers will challenge the assertion that "the perpendicular pronoun" (I) really needs to be avoided. Others seem to believe that only third person is acceptable, or that no person should ever be mentioned unless specifically talking about people. My own take is that this is all a matter of style, and whatever you pick -- as long as it ...


26

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. You can even use this as a moment of conflict, or humor. "It's ubiquitous," Angela said. Kevin frowned. "What does that mean?" "It means it's ...


25

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 and expressions you put in your head, the more you can use them in your writing. Every time I wrote something, I realized I was heavily influenced by the things ...


24

"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 those "said"s stack up because they seem cumbersome and repetitive. However, reading is an entirely different story. A well written story will immerse the reader ...


23

Orson Scott Card answers your question precisely and eloquently in his excellent Character and Viewpoint, under the heading One Name Per Character. Go, read. For posterity, I'll summarize: Names should be treated as "invisible words" - they're so common, the reader hardly notices them. You can repeat them as often as you like, without worrying about "...


23

When it adds no value to the text. It depends entirely on the context and the setting. Swearing for the sake of swearing is juvenile. Teens do it because they think it makes them appear hard or grown up. Adults tend do it out of frustration, anger or pain, or to add emphasis. Most often frustration. The trick is how you use it. You don't have to include ...


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