Finding the Right Word



(Inspiration for writing – one letter can make all the difference!)

Lately, I’ve been seeing many misused words in all types of writing. Proofreading is not what it used to be!

And, it is often because of one little letter – such as the difference between “turn” and “turd.” Not at all the same idea.

Often, I attribute the mistake to allowing the computer to finish the word for you. DO NOT allow the computer to choose the word! When the computer chooses the word, it works with an algorithm that may result in a word that is not what you mean.

The solution to this problem is to choose your own words and build your vocabulary. Why build your vocabulary? So the words you use are the most descriptive and appropriate words to explain and portray your meaning.

A simple example:

When I was an editor, a freelance writer I used would write “to” when she meant “too,” or “two” when she meant either of the others.

After repeated misuse of to/too/two, I offered her a simple explanation showing when each of the words is used, with an example.

She responded that – I’m sure jokingly – that it would take her ten years to master the above differences.

Well, I stopped working with her. Especially in a writing capacity, knowing the language is essential.

How do you decide what word to use?

  1. First, figure out what meaning you’re planning to convey.
  2. If you can’t find the best word, use the word you know. If you want something more exciting try:
  3. The online thesaurus, looking for synonyms or
  4. A dictionary.

To my coaching clients, I always suggest that they not use the online resource. If they use the computer’s thesaurus, they will wind up with the same word everyone else might use. Instead, try a dictionary to expand the vocabulary.

When in doubt, use the simple word. It sometimes provides the most understandable meaning. Don’t you prefer that people understand what you mean?

The alternative is an erudite document that may not exactly explain what you set out to describe.

An adage I learned growing up is:

Say what you mean and mean what you say!

Just do it!

And proofread everything before you text, tweet, post, write, email or commit to any form of communication. It can save lots of embarrassment. (More on that tomorrow.)

Have you had experiences where one word has changed the meaning and caused embarrassment, problems or misunderstanding? If so, share your example and I’ll give you credit (if you want it shown – maybe you’d just like to forget it and not have your name mentioned!)

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