Writers Require Precision in Language Choices

Originally published on Savvy Authors on November 8, 2011

Precision in Language Choices

Choosing the precise word or phrase remains a challenge for all authors, whether they write professionally or for their own pleasure. The majority of those who make a living from writing have knowledge of words they never use in their creations. I write novels based in the Regency Period (1811-1820). Contemporary words/phrases such as Google, HD, iPad, and mouse are never used, but one easily finds acquiesce, obeisance, imprudence, and forbearance. From this quick example, one can easily observe the number of words which a person uses in his writing falls short of the number of which he is familiar. Add to that fact, how quickly the English language changes, and an author/poet will find it difficult to keep up with the flexibility of the language. Yet, some basics persist. It is the writer’s responsibility to use the best word(s) for a particular situation. Instead of choosing a word, it is important to choose the word that expresses the exact meaning he intends. (For the examples below, I give credit to my college journalism professor. These examples remain in my spiral notebook even after all these years.)

 Institute for Humane Education • 31 weeks ago "Defining Moments" (article) (via Teaching Tolerance) (Spring 2012) Explores the evolving definitions and meanings of many words used in children’s dictionaries and the challenges of dealing with complex issues related to words such as "feminism," "gender," "race," and "ethnicity" — as well as even “simple” definitions, like "tan." (From The Power of Language on Pinterest)

Institute for Humane Education • 31 weeks ago
“Defining Moments” (article) (via Teaching Tolerance) (Spring 2012) Explores the evolving definitions and meanings of many words used in children’s dictionaries and the challenges of dealing with complex issues related to words such as “feminism,” “gender,” “race,” and “ethnicity” — as well as even “simple” definitions, like “tan.” (From The Power of Language on Pinterest)

Affect, Effect
Affect is a verb meaning to influence.
Effect is a noun meaning result.

Influence, Impact (two words often associated with affect/effect)
Influence refers to the ability to cause desired effects.
Impact means to strike or to collide; to wedge in.

Acute, Chronic
Acute indicates intenseness; that something has become immediately critical.
Chronic means recurring or continuing over a considerable time.

Adapt, Adopt, Adept
Adapt means to adjust to a changing situation.
Adopt means to accept something as one’s own.

Adept means having skills.

Adverse, Averse
Adverse means unfavorable.
Averse means having a distaste for something.

Aggravate, Annoy, Irritate
Aggravate means to make worse or more troublesome. It is used to refer to things.
Annoy means to make angry, usually through repetition. Use it to refer to people.
Irritate means to provoke to impatience or anger.

Agree To, Agree With
Agree to is used to refer to things.
Agree with is used to refer to people.

Character, Reputation
Character is the sum of a person’s behavior and his moral standards.
Reputation is other people’s perception of the person.

Each Other, One Another
Each other is used when two people, places or things are involved.
One another is used for three or more.

Cynic, Skeptic
Cynic refers to a person who doubts or denies the goodness of human nature and does so in a sarcastic manner.
Skeptic refers to a person who has a doubting, questioning attitude. He wants evidence to prove his ideas.

Allusion, Delusion, Illusion
Allusion is an indirect mention.
Delusion is to believe in something even when evidence shows otherwise.
Illusion is a false or misleading idea or image.

Expect, Anticipate
Expect is used when no preparation is made.
Anticipate is used when preparation has been made for something that will occur.

Smell, Odor, Aroma
Smell is a neutral word depending on the surrounding words.
Odor refers to something unpleasant.
Aroma refers to something pleasant.

Eager, Anxious
Eager shows impatient desire.
Anxious indicates worry or concern.

Appraise, Apprise
Appraise means to determine the value.
Apprise means to notify or inform.

Cement, Concrete
Cement is the powder used as an adhesive ingredient in concrete. (Note! Cement is not a verb.)

Doctor is a title, not a profession. It should be used generically. Use physician, minister, professor, etc., for more specific descriptions.

Pretense, Pretext
Pretense refers to a false appearance or action used purposely for deception.
Pretext is a false or fabricated reason, developed to hide the truth.

Because, Since
Most writers make no distinction in use between these two words. However, there are certain differences that should be addressed.
Because is used to indicate a cause or a reason.
Since refers to time, meaning between then and now.

To be fair, English is full of such traps. After all, I can deposit my paycheck in a bank, I can sit on the river bank to fish, or I can bank a basketball off the backboard. English is a language where one’s nose runs and his feet smell. It possesses a deceptively complex structure, but it is well worth knowing English’s subtleties.

JeffersC@Pem2Christmas at Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Christmas Sequel

To bring a renewed sense joy to his wife’s countenance, Fitzwilliam Darcy has secretly invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small out-of-the-way inn with another couple preparing for the immediate delivery of their first child, while Pemberley is inundated with friends and relations seeking shelter from the storm.

Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy desperately attempts to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies, and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana Darcy know happiness?

Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit, and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.

Regina-270x300Regina Jeffers, a public classroom teacher for thirty-nine years, considers herself a Jane Austen enthusiast. She is the author of several Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, Honor and Hope, and the soon-to-be-released The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin. She also is a Regency romance author: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Mercy, A Touch of Love, A Touch of Honor, The First Wives’ Club and the upcoming Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her new grandson.

For book excerpts and guest appearances, please visit www.rjeffers.com
(Books available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Books-a-Million, Joseph Beth, and Ulysses Press.)

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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