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Choice of Words and Good Writing

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.  ~Mark Twain

This is how important the choice of words is.  Choosing right words to express exactly what you want to say, or want your readers to understand, is the most challenging part of writing. Your piece of writing may be grammatically correct, the punctuations and spellings may be perfect, but if it’s not conveying the right message – that is, the message that you want to put across to your readers – then of what use is it?

Choosing the right words is extremely essential. Then using these words in the right context is also very important. Two words may mean the same thing but may not be used in the same context. This is why it is important to understand both the denotation (the precise meaning) and the connotation (the emotional overtones of the word) of the word before using it. For example, take the words cheap and inexpensive. They have the same denotation, but different connotation. The word cheap brings in a less favorable association to the mind than the word inexpensive. So, which word would you use? This depends on what you’re writing.

Another common error, where the choice of words is concerned, is in the use of similes and metaphors. Many writers consider them to be the same and very often use one where the other should have been used. The same goes for personifications, paradoxes, hyperboles, and puns. These are all figures of speech but create different images in the mind of the reader.

All good writers strive to find the right words. They look for words that best fit their meaning and evoke the right emotion in their readers. All this may seem very simple, but believe me, it’s not. The slightest mistake, and the whole meaning changes. This is why good writers always read and re-read what they have written and change vague words for clearer and more emotionally evocative ones. This reminds me of the quote from the movie Finding Forrester – “Write your first draft with your heart.  Re-write with your head.”

George Orwell, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, also stressed the importance of the use of right words in his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’. He says, “Let the meaning choose the word.”

A passionate defender of good writing, he goes on to give some tips on choice of words. He says –


* A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: Jorwell5

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.   

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. *


Orwell’s right. These rules do sound elementary, but only a good writer knows how elementary they are.

So, are my choices of words correct in this post?


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Creative Writers and Their Works

Yesterday I wrote about freelance writing and creative writing. One is pursued to earn a living, and the other to fulfill the desire and love for writing. Yes, the latter is creative writing. Properly defined, creative writing is any writing that is done with the purpose of expressing thoughts, feelings, or emotions. This expression may be in any form that the writer feels at ease with – fiction (this includes novels, short stories, plays, etc), non-fiction (this includes all accounts of facts – like essays, journals, biographies and the like), and poetry (which is all literature in metric form).  

New creative writers sometimes find it hard to get their works published. Keeping this in mind, Word-Mart has dedicated a whole section to such new writers. Anyone with a passion for writing, and who wants to see his/her work in print, can send in their creative pieces here. There’s a good collection of them. Have a look, read what you like, and leave comments to encourage the budding writers.

Here’s the link –  YOUR PAGE


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Freelance Writing versus Creative Writing

“So, you’re a freelance writer?” she asked with a smirk on her face.  No, I’m not telling you a story. This is something someone asked me recently. More than the question, it was the way it was asked… as if being a freelance writer was something awful. This person who asked me this isn’t the only one. I have come across many people who think that freelance writing isn’t really writing. These people believe that creative writing is the real writing. Well, they may be right if they consider writing what you actually want to write for yourself to be real writing, and writing for someone else as not being writing. This will naturally come from non-writers, because anyone who knows anything about freelance writing knows how much work goes into it. This is typing 2not in the least bit belittling creative writing. I would never do that because I am both a creative writer as well as a freelance writer. To me, both are equally important and I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other.

What is then the real difference between freelance writing and creative writing? Freelance writing is when you pursue a career as a writer without committing to a single employer. In other words, you write many different things for different businesses and publications according to their requirements. Freelance writers write to earn a living. Creative writers, on the other hand, write only for the purpose of expressing his/her thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They write only for themselves for the love of writing, not for money. I guess this is why non-writers think creative writing is better… because creativity is involved here. But it’s not always possible to pay your bills with creativity.

Did you notice I wrote “not always”, and not “never”? Why? Because now it is possible to be both creative and earn a living, and this can be done by creative freelance writing. You may or may not have heard of a creative freelance writer – a combination of a creative writer and a freelance writer. It’s a way of being creative and making a living by taking on different projects at the same time.  Quite a few people are taking up this career these days.

Some of the fields that a creative freelance writer can pursue are:

  • Ebooks – a great way of being creative and write for others at the same time.
  • Speeches – writing a speech for someone is a great creative outlet.
  • Scriptwriting – this is another great outlet for a creative mind.
  • Songwriting – this is ideal for poetry writers.
  • Ghostwriting – a great field for the storyteller.
  • Greeting Cards – another good place for both the creative prose and poetry writer.
  • Publicity Material – this can be brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or slogans.
  • Magazine Freelancing – you can submit your stories and poems to one of the many print or online magazines.

Can you think of any other field or genre where you can pay your bills by creative writing?


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Ray Bradbury Speaks About Writing

Ray Bradbury is a well known writer with over five hundred published works, which include short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse. In 2007, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Citation from the Pulitzer Committee for his contribution to American literature. In this video clip Ray Bradbury speaks about writing. A good piece –



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Writing Terms and Phrases

In the world of writing, there are certain terms and phrases which are specific to the writing field. While some of these relate to only writing, there are others which may have one meaning when generally used, and another when specifically applied to writing or anything related to it. What are these different writing terms and phrases? For easy reference, Word-Mart has compiled a list. Though by no means comprehensive, the Glossary does contain the most often used writing terms and phrases. It’s worth bookmarking. Have a look:



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How to Be a Successful Freelance Writer

How to be successful freelance writer, tips on succeeding as a freelance writer, freelance writing tips…. much has been written on these and similar topics. New or beginning writers these days find it so easy to start a career in freelance writing by going through such tips. But things weren’t so easy when I started out on this career… this was over 20 years ago. Twenty-two years to be precise.

Twenty-two years ago there was no internet (here I mean I didn’t have access to it since it wasn’t very common back then). As a result – no tips for me, no finding jobs online, no knowing how to go about finding work.  Neither was there anyone among my friends or acquaintances who was a freelance writer who could guide me through. I did know a couple of journalists, but to be very honest, they weren’t very helpful. Whatever I did, I did on my own… whatever my gut feelings told me to do. I must thank my stars here that whatever route I took – with only my talent for writing in my hand – it led me to success. How I managed to get my first assignment, and the assignments after that, will go in other posts. For now I’ll just give some tips on how to be a successful freelance writer. They may be similar to what others say, but as for me – I am just going by my own experiences. Here they are:

  1. Pay attention to the details of your client. You are not writing for yourself, but for your client. So go through the requirements and follow all the details. If during the process of writing you need to know anything more, don’t hesitate to call. Communication is important.
  2. Know the topic well. Research the topic thoroughly. Most topics have already been written about, so try and bring in something new (keeping in mind your client’s requirements). Never ever plagiarize.
  3. Give your best to each assignment. Take each assignment as a challenge and meet it as never before. It should be a perfect piece of writing.
  4. Keep to deadlines. This is very important for your reputation as a freelance writer. No one wants to hire someone who doesn’t meet deadlines. Shortage of time is the reason given most of the time for not meeting deadlines. So, what becomes important here is time management. Manage your time well and there’s no reason you can’t complete the job on time.
  5. Keep your rates reasonable. If your rates are too high, you won’t get much work. If they are too low, then it’s proof of your not being good enough. So, keep it somewhere in between.  
  6. Be versatile. Being an expert in a field is good, but if you want assignments to keep coming, you have to be versatile. It may be a little difficult in the beginning, but with time, as you learn with each different assignment, you will be able to do many different things with equal ease.
  7. Keep looking for new assignments. Don’t wait for one to complete before looking for another. This will waste a lot of time in between. You should have another job ready to start on just as you finish one.
  8. Maintain good relations with your clients. This is very important if you want them to come back to you with new assignments.

I would love to know about your experiences. How did you learn tricks of the trade?


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Benefits of Journal Writing – From Benefiters Themselves

Ruth Folit sent this link as a follow-up on the post below. She says: “Thought you’d be interested in this web page that contains a handful of people–some leaders in the journaling field–with recordings, each about 60 seconds, about what they consider the benefits of keeping a journal.”

Do visit the page.



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