Dressing up your vocabulary

A person’s choice of words can tell us a lot about that person. Within minutes of engaging in conversation we get a sense of where they have come from in life, what part of the country they may live, how they live and even who they are. Whether their language is filled with southern drawl, short choppy one syllable words, street slang or words like emolument or insalubrious we listeners form a picture of who they are. Just as we all have our own style of clothes that we wear: a little black dress for a saturday evening party verses a skinny pair of jeans for an afternoon lunch with the girls, we also have our own style of vocabulary.
Stephen King tells us that his “commonest” tool of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary. In his book “On Writing” he talks a lot about the writer’s toolbox and the placement of the tools. He tells us to “put vocabulary on the top shelf of your toolbox, and don’t make any conscious effort to improve it. (You’ll be doing that as you read, of course… but that comes later.) One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”
So be yourself in life and in your writing and your little black dress will always have a place where it fits.

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