Make Your Words Work for You

Choosing the Best Words to Make Your Story Pop

As writers, we all love language. I say this because writing and finding just the right words to tell our stories is not easy. We work hard to manipulate language in just the right way to get our thoughts across. If we didn’t love language we would bother.

Words are really our tools, so we need to use the best tools to get the job done.

The Weakest Words

First, let’s discuss and then eliminate the weakest words that we have in our tool kit. These are adverbs and adjectives.

Adverbs and adjectives are used to describe and they appear to be shortcuts. If I say that my neighbor is a kind old man, this doesn’t paint a clear picture for the reader. What does kind mean? Does he smile and say hello when I see him in the morning? Or does he bake chocolate chip cookies and bring them over every week? And what does old mean? Is he in his fifties or nineties?

The same goes for adverbs such as: He walks slowly. I’m not quite sure what slowly means.

It’s almost always a bad idea to describe with adjectives and adverbs. This doesn’t mean that you should never use them. Sometimes, it’s appropriate for the sake of moving on with the story. I can say: He leaned on the hot hood of the car and jumped back. In this case, hot is fine. I don’t need to know how hot it was. It was hot enough to make him jump away, and that’s all I need to know as a reader.

So, use these sparingly.

The Solid Words That Bring the Story to Life

What we want to use to describe are nouns. Nouns are specific and strong. Readers will not get confused if you use nouns to describe. In my example of my neighbor, if I used nouns, the sentence might look like this: Every morning, my 98 year old neighbor, who sits on his porch to welcome the day, pushes himself out of the chair and takes careful steps to the sidewalk and gives my dogs a treat.

This shows him doing something nice, so we can assume he is kind. We know exactly how old he is, and though I’m not saying that he walks slowly, I’m trying to provide the image of the careful steps and letting the…



Julia Amante - Fiction author, Speaker, Mentor.