In Elements of Style, E.B.White warns “not to be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”
I get that. But I’m also all too aware of the limitations of my vocabulary. And it is during the revision process that most I yearn to be English (or even a genteel Southern belle). I read all the Reader’s Digest “Increase Your Word Power” articles growing up and took college prep courses in high school. But I can never say “vehemently” with ease and I keep a notebook of words to look up whenever I read. I need vocab-rehab.
Aspiring to be as lyrical and precise as my dear friend, Susan Patron, and inspired by my interview with her, I even bought an Oxford English Dictionary, (Compact edition, 1989) on eBay. It came without magnifying glass and the one I own is severely lacking. (Mother’s Day gift suggestion, family!)
Looking up “accesssion” gave me eye strain
I long to be erudite in what I pen, but alas, my words are more blue collar than blue blood. And, I have this annoying habit of overusing words — “just” and “actually” are just a few. Each new manuscript seems to lead to “pet” words; the newly completed WIP sagged under “hefted,” and “imagined,” and “snorted” (don’t ask). I personally rely heavily on a taped together copy of The Synonym Finder, edited by J.I Rodale to help me vary the way my characters walk (swagger, stride, stomp, sidle), talk (whisper, grumble, mutter, trill) and chew gum (chomp, smack, nibble, worry).
It’s time to tell all: what word boosters do you use? What are your word demons and quirks? I’m dying/near death/knocking on heaven’s door/one foot in the grave to know.