Language is a wonderful thing but it also has a very distinct way of being annoyingly vague. To make any headway as a writer, it is extremely important to have a grasp of language; not only what a word means, but the nuance it carries. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when I read something that could be better described just through a slightly different word choice. Below I have listed five of my least favourite “vague” descriptors:
Mad – Are you angry, frustrated, livid, full of rage, insane or just a little miffed?
Pretty – Is it (he/she) stunning, handsome, striking, elegant, beautiful or maybe gorgeous?
Good – Why not try something like excellent, extraordinary, alright… or when talking about character traits, why not kind, saintly, or loving? Big-hearted?
Fun – Is it a person? Are they funny? Hilarious? What makes them fun? A situation can be extreme, intense, enjoyable or maybe even entertaining?
Smart – There are so many different types of “smart.” There’s intelligence, street-smart, book-smart, scholarly, or learned. Smart can also be used as slang for pain. Describe the pain. if it smarted, was it a pinch, a twinge, a bump, an ache, or something else?
These are some of the simplest examples that I could come up with off the top of my head (Thank you to my lovely fiancé for helping me with some synonyms), but the message stays true. Just like with tattoos, think before you ink. When you revise your drafts, ask yourself whether you have used the best descriptor. As someone who has written hundreds of second, third, fourth and even fifth drafts, I can tell you that my first work is never, EVER my best work. Most likely, yours isn’t either. First drafts are for getting ideas onto a page. Revisions are where you turn those words into things of beauty. Plus, with the advent of computers, you have infinite opportunities to arrange and rearrange your words into their ideal form.
One final example:
The pretty woman was mad that someone interrupted what should have been a very fun evening.
The stunning woman was livid that someone interrupted what should have been a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Each sentence includes 16 words. Which describes the situation better? Which one paints a better picture? Which one evokes more emotion?
Words sell. Always remember to write, rewrite, ask for outside opinions and write some more. Putting in the time to find perfect descriptors pays off in great dividends.