Grab a grand vocab—and romance it.
I made a file of delightful words I named “Wordlist.” But crazy spellcheck named it “Wordlust.” Perfect, I thought—a play on love for words.
My vocabulary shriveled. So, I stared down a dictionary nightly. I learned that words have multiple meanings that don’t mix or make sense. And whenever I read nonfiction, I jotted big words onto blank pages. I plugged these words into Dictionary.com, crafting vocabulary cue cards for online viewers.
Today, I access humankind’s best voice-recognition software for vocabulary: Cuddles. Ask Cuddles any word, and he drums up spitfire synonyms and definitions. And he’s one handsome volume.
I love words that purse the lips—words like “sparkly perfection” (Barbara Baig, 2015). So, I bought a rhyming dictionary for lines begging for song. I also notice traits like onomatopoeia—the “b” that bubbles on your lips, the “f” that curses under your breath, the “s” that slithers off your tongue. Play with sounds like they’re Slurpee cups in the Sahara Desert.
Weave your own word-lust into wonderful tales. Question the art, too: What’s a twist on words? Well, a double-entendre, for one. (A double-entendre is a word with two meanings, like “sharp” as in “further down the dark side-street stumbled a man dressed sharp.”) And how do you zing a line’s last word? End with a word containing a funny, abrupt sound, like k, b, d, p, t, or g. Or end with a concrete word, something you can sense, like “heartthrob.”
And bust through writer’s heartaches. My woes? I skinny-down sentences to skeletons. I fail to flow time-transitions between the now’s and then’s. I fear reading classics will suck away my soul. But if I keep reading on writing, I’ll surely make the changes.
Barbara Baig says make your own “word hoard,” which I call “word-lust”: a list of words you love She shows how in her book Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers:
- Words create magic. They move the world to action. They paint pictures. They touch hearts. So, play with words like magic wands.
- You have your own word hoard. I have mine. Strengthen that hoard through exercises.
- First, start freewriting random words that come to mind. Repeat words when stuck. Checkmark the words that taste like tongue syrup. Write them in your word-lust.
- By freewriting, you “wake up your word mind, opening up and lubricating the mental channels through which words flow” (p. 37)
- When you see sparkly words you don’t use, use them. Say them, write poems with them, but mostly, play with them like clay.
- Second, take any subject and write down its jargon. Jargon makes great metaphors, but don’t confuse readers with words like “iron butterfly” or “short strike.”
- Third, take any person, place, or event in your life and write related words.
- Fourth, write down heart-tugging words said by friends. Tuck them in your word hoard.
As a final tip, change your face by changing your words. If you want to blow kisses, use pucker-up words with b’s, p’s, or m’s. If you want to spark fear, use frown words with f’s or v’s or n’s. If you want to smile lots, use grin words with k’s and g’s and long e’s. Maybe that’s why k is the funniest letter of the alphabet: it leaves you with a smile.