At times, that search feels like groping in the dark. How do we know which word is the “right” word? Ultimately, of course, the answer depends upon you, as the author, and the demands of whatever sentence you’re writing. There’s no such thing as the “right” word; there are just good words appropriately used. Today, let’s explore four sophisticated linguistic techniques for choosing and using those words in a way that won’t cost you all the sweat and labor our pal Snoopers had to endure.
What is it? Repetition of beginning consonant sounds.
How is it used? I used alliteration in the title of the post (“4 Tricks for Picking the Perfect Word”). I could have said “4 Tricks for Choosing the Perfect Word” or “4 Tricks for Picking the Right Word”—and both choices would have been more than sufficient—but neither would have given me the pleasing phonetic significance of alliteration. Remember, alliteration doesn’t demand words begin with the same letter, just the same sound.
For example: Cara kept the chimera at bay.
What is it? Repetition of vowel sounds.
How is it used? The post title contains assonance in its rhyming words (“4 Tricks for Picking the Perfect Word”), but assonance can be just as powerful—sometimes more so—in non-rhyming words.
For example: The red heifer looked left as I set down the lemonade for the referee.
What is it? Repetition of internal consonant sounds.
How is it used? Again, we find an example in the post title (“4 Tricks for Picking the Perfect Word”), but the possibilities aren’t limited to rhymes. We can use the technique to gain a more subtle (and often subconscious) effect through non-rhyming words.
For example: Suspicious as ever, the assassin sussed out the mafia boss’s safe house.
What is it? Representation of sound through phonetic imitation.
How is it used? I have to fess up to my inability to find a suitable use of onomatopoeia for the post title (kablooey, snap, and meow just didn’t quite fit in). This technique can easily become overbearing, if used incorrectly. The wham-pow-holy-barking-dogs-Batman! approach of comic books isn’t often appropriate in written fiction. However, when used with a little more restraint, the accessible power of onomatopoeic words can infuse sizzle into your prose.
For example: Whapping its wings against the cage, the parrot squawked at the annoying cackling of its neighbor, a magpie.
These four simple techniques can instantly raise your writing to a new level of effectiveness. For all their subtle power, they’re easy to implement, and they offer some fun and original solutions to Snoopy’s agonized hours of word searching.
Tell me your opinion: Have you ever consciously used these techniques in your writing?
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Story by K.M. Weiland