Eloquence Over Fanciful

As I stated in my previous post, words are important. Are your choice of words effective? Do you see a mundane word in your writing and instinctively right click to see a list of more fanciful synonyms?

We’ve all been there. I get it. I’ve done it. But is it better to try to replace perfectly good words with flowery, out-of-use ones?

Not necessarily.

Eloquence is not synonymous with fancy words. Eloquence is knowing – and understanding – which word is perfect for your subject, audience, and setting. With that said, there is a time and place for fancy words. Consider dialogue.

“I will commence at my earliest possible convenience” is not something you or anyone you know would say, unless you are a time traveler (in which case–carry on). In everyday life, “I’ll start as soon as possible” is more eloquent than the previous example.

If you don’t use this in your everyday life, why put it in dialogue? Because it reads better?

Nope.

There are exceptions of course, but don’t assume you are the exception. Take The Lost City of Al-Kimiya for instance. It’s set in the industrialized age of my world; a century flooded with mechanized inventions, woven with alchemy and magic, and which begins not even a century after a great war. Words like “gubbins,” “ninnyhammer,” and “tootle-loo” would be spoken by the older generation of characters, and thus, they’re added into dialogue. Sparingly, I might add.

Include old-fashioned words cautiously. Oversaturation of out-of-use words will pull a reader from the story. Your audience may roll their eyes. As the writer, you are supposed to be the one who decides when the reader should roll their eyes.

So how does an author become eloquent? They broaden their vocabulary by listening. I like to keep a pocket-sized notebook or my phone nearby for this exclusive purpose. It helps when creating a “voice” for a character. Reading, watching T.V., eavesdropping on a stranger’s conversation, all add to your vocabulary, but knowing when and how to use words distinguishes time travelers from modern eloquence.

I still struggle with using the word “for” after a comma. “Elivia knew no other way, for she had studied the classics at her university and could not break this terrible habit.”

What “terrible habits” of writing do you struggle with?

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