Word Choice – It Matters


© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I’ve always been a writer but I am a fledgling novelist. One thing that writing a novel is teaching me: my vocabulary is lacking. Nonexistent really.

To think, vocabulary was once something I prided myself on.

I guess spending my formative years looking up words I didn’t know; writing down the definitions in my “reading journal”; and using the word in a sentence was for nothing. Especially because I don’t recall the majority of the words let alone their meanings.

Most of the time I rely on the context clues for meaning rather than the denotative meaning. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as a reader.

However, as a writer, I find myself struggling to convey what I mean without being repetitive. Or I have to use a thesaurus because I don’t know an alternative way to say certain things. And then it feels forced because they aren’t “my” words.

It’s a sad state …

Who wants to read a novel full of the same single descriptive word or phrase? For instance: “the twins” to describe our heroines.

Not me. Not any reader.

I know I can use: siblings, sisters, girls, daughters, doppelgänger. Or even combinations with: matched set, pair, identical, fraternal. But will it feel authentic coming from my mouth, my pen, my keystrokes?


I guess that’s why they say: “Writing is Re-writing.”

I wonder if this is part of finding my writer’s voice. The reason I choose the words I choose.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Poor vocabulary is limiting. HINT: I’m easy to beat in a game of Words with Friends or Scrabble which is why I won’t play against my hubby.

Although I am in a state of hysteria over this, I haven’t allowed it to slow me down. My choice? Let words flow. Even if the words are repetitive. I just need to get the story out. Right? Then I can go back and make the words matter.

This is part of the reason I am reluctant to share excerpts from my novel in progress. Eventually I’ll move past this issue. Or maybe the second draft will only contain deliberately repetitive statements, making it worthy to post.

Outside of using a thesaurus … I need to work on vocabulary building. My characters deserve a richer language than I have to offer right now.

Anyone else have this problem? What’s the cure?

Off to listen to my Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day and Grammar Girl podcasts. Oh yeah and to read more so I can learn from those who’ve done it well.


  1. I suppose the wise answer is to read more (good) literature Gail and it will rub off. Whether that is true or not I’ve no idea.
    In my first novel apparently the word ‘rueful’ reoccurred regularly but now it’s ‘somewhat’!
    In addition to Britt’s link above I’ve found http://www.cliches.biz/clichecleaner/index.html somewhat useful.

    • Thanks Roy for the link. It’s good to know it’s not only me. Scrivener will tell you how many times you use words but I haven’t figured out the best way to leverage it yet. I will keep reading and using resources that come my way.

  2. I couldn’t help but think of “The Princess Bride” in reading this…”inconceivable!” I loved that part where the guy says, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” That’s how I feel quite often – at a loss for words, or at least for the right words. But I love the pursuit!

    • The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. I had forgotten about that line hahaha … It is inconceivable that I should be struggling with this. Or maybe it isn’t. Thanks for reading LubbyGirl.

  3. Ah, yes…repetitive words. I once read an author who liked to use the word “unceremonious” too much. I don’t mind the word, but I do mind it four times in one book.

    I always write with thesaurus.com open…always. A trick I discovered through another blogger (it was a while ago so I don’t have the source handy) is Sporkforge…http://sporkforge.com/text/word_count.php

    It is the most basic website ever, but the text analyzer is the bomb! You can copy and paste up to 50,000 words in and it not only reports words, but also phrases. Super helpful during the editing stages!

  4. I think I know where you’re coming from. Since English isn’t my first language, I always feel that I’m rather inadequate when it comes to vocabulary. My fiancé (who’s American) has an extensive vocabulary and I sometimes have to ask him what he means by a word or two. It’s not bad and it’s not a hindrance. You just keep learning. I found that through lots of reading I can pick up words here and there, and if I feel like I’ve used one word too often I reach for my thesaurus. Baby steps!

  5. Thanks Stephanie. I am always excited when I make Weekend Reads on V&R. Have an fabulous weekend.


  1. […] Word Choice – It Matters from the Jotter’s Joint Gail at the Jotter’s Joint talks about finding one’s writer voice – including the vocabulary we use. […]

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