Choosing Words Like Your Life Depended On It

 In Writing and Editing

I have developed somewhat of a bad habit at home. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, but based on some recent body language I have received, I may need to rethink my position on it. Every once in a blue moon, I may correct someone on the way they are using a word or phrase. Not in an obnoxious way, of course, but more in the saying back the correct word in a childlike tone as if asking if that is what they really meant to say way.

See, I told you it wasn’t obnoxious.

What else am I supposed to do? I am a writer. An editor, for Pete’s sake. It is my vocational duty to enforce the rules of proper word usage on those I love. I think Strunk and White would be proud of me.

It is important to note that there are many similar words from which one may choose to communicate a thought, but far too often people use words that simply do not mean what they think they mean. And I am not talking about using words that are not even words – such as irregardless. I mean choosing the exact word that means precisely what you mean and nothing less.

When writing your email newsletters and blogs, don’t give in to the temptation to be close enough. If you can’t think of the right word, leave XXXs and come back to it. Use a thesaurus or online dictionary or tweet your conundrum and see what responses you get. (That was a test – a conundrum is a riddle with an answer that is or involves a pun –  clearly not the right word but used like that a lot.)

Even the most mundane pieces can come to life when time is taken to choose words carefully. Your readers deserve your best effort.

What are some of your favorite misuses of words?

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