Saturday, January 26, 2013


Words are interesting things. Some are so common and so overused they have become ubiquitous. Others are so unusual and unfamiliar they pull a reader's attention to the word rather than convey the overall meaning of the writing. Oops! Stop the reader for an instant and what might happen?

Some would say I used so too many times above. I think they work like a key word to show exaggeration. Much of writing is opinion and choice. Writing guidelines advise writing should be concise and specific, which is helpful, but wording goes beyond this dictum.

Everyone has favorite words, some work well, others don't. Words like since, again, only, like, so, that, then, than, still, just, and even but are commonly overused. I keep a list of the 'favorites' I tend to overuse and double check each manuscript for their usage, for often their only contribution is clutter. On the other hand, not using them when needed leads to some strange word configurations.

Synonyms help in reducing the repetition of some often-repeated necessary words, but they can have nuances of meaning, and can also lead to trouble. Choosing either the right or wrong synonym can make significant differences in understanding.

Keeping a list of my overused words led me to keeping a list of interesting words. Of course, this list has its own caveats. I need to be careful not to repeat any particular word too frequently, and to be careful in their usage. These words must fit the scene and character or their usage might distract the reader.

Words aren't easy, but sometimes they are fun. Well, fun for me. Like the word mile. In the U.S. we all know what a mile is; however, do you know the etymology of mile? A mile comes from mille passus meaning a thousand paces, which would make it seem metric in measurement standards. If you look at ancient Roman roads, built by the great road builders of the age, the Roman Legions, you will find the remainders of mile markers. The Romans measured in miles! What was the measurement? A thousand paces of a marching legion. I am guessing it is a logistics thing, if a commander knows how many miles his men can march in a day, he knows how long it will take to arrive where orders dictate the army move. Think about that the next time you pass one of our green mile markers on our highway system.  ~ Rhobin

Protecting Her Own
available from Champagne Books