Choosing Vocabulary: General Advice; Specific and Diverse Adjectives; 'No!' to 'Nice'! My Challenge to You
How Would You Describe These?
Oh, how nice!!
What do you mean? It’s easy to say something’s ‘nice’ but do you mean pretty, kind, gentle, brilliant, aesthetic, impressive or....?
When writing, it’s always a good idea to vary your usage of vocabulary. I always tell students “I don’t want to see the words ‘nice’ or ‘very’”! There are so many words to choose from which will be far more apt and precise.
‘Nice’ is an adjective; an adjective describes the way something is or looks. Whichever word you choose, make it specific and ensure that each alternative is a different one. A variety of words is the key to interesting and engaging reading.
For example: ‘That building is pleasing; it has fine aesthetic qualities.’
Write, write, write!
General Advice: Practise Every Day!
I cannot stress enough that writing improves with practice, from as early an age as possible. A few minutes a day can transform an average ability to writing which is well-formatted, well-presented and imaginative, whatever the subject. It also develops your style, your ‘voice’.
You’ll soon get into the habit of thinking carefully about your vocabulary, your phraseology, your use of paragraphs, your juxtaposition of shorter or longer sentences. Vary the pace and you’ll keep your reader’s attention.
No one is ever the perfect writer but you can make sure you produce the best you can on a given day, by thinking about your words and your construction each time you sit down to compose an article or a story.
A word of warning though; never use a word just because you like it! Make sure it’s relevant and above all that you don’t sound as though you’re trying to show off your own knowledge. Readers need to feel comfortable, not swamped with unnecessarily ‘big’ words which may not be easily understood. Simple but varied is best and always, but always, proof-read your writing at least twice; immediately and once more a little later.
Which would you rather read?
‘He pursued the woman with the perambulator whilst driving his automobile, until they reached the interchange of highways. Then he extinguished the turbo engine, alighted from his transport and ran to engage her in conversation.’
‘In his car, he followed the girl with the pram until they reached the crossroads. Switching off the engine, he got out and ran to talk to her.'
I know which I'd prefer.
Using words in groups of three gives a satisfaction to the reader.
Here are some examples of 1-2-3:
‘The lorry crunched, growled and whined its way up the hill.’
‘He stopped, he looked, he turned pale.’
Better still, use alliteration (same letter starting key words),
‘The lorry spat, spewed and spluttered its way up the hill’.
There is a certain rhythm to the number three, it appeals to the ear.
Three Bouncy Castle Words
Your reader wants to be able to see a layout that is easy on the eyes, not a huge chunk of text with no breaks.
A paragraph should deal with one point, or angle, or particular description. Then start the next paragraph for the ensuing points in your article or the next part of your story. Totally different sections in a novel need separate chapters. Here I’m sticking to short articles or stories.
Make sure your paragraphs start with different words. The number of times I’ve seen ‘The….. (end of para)’, (next para) ‘The….’ and so on. The rule is not hard and fast; occasionally for effect you may want to use the same word but it’s generally not advisable.
Vary the length of each paragraph. Just like breaking up a paragraph with shorter and longer sentences, shorter and longer paragraphs keep the reader on his/her toes.
Faces, Clothes, Objects, Weather....Click thumbnail to view full-size
Not 'Nice'! Alternative Words
Let’s start the attack, then, on my pet hate ‘nice’: I would suggest the following variations to mean something tasteful or pleasant.
amenable, attentive, attractive, calm, caring, convivial, easy-going, elegant, endearing, entertaining, down-to-earth, fair, gentle, genial, happy, helpful, pleasant, polite, pretty, quirky, quick-witted, reliable, selfless, sensitive, thoughtful, under-estimated..
absorbing, active, challenging, diverse, easy, effortless, enjoyable, engaging, fun, funky, interesting, occupying, popular, pleasant, refreshing,
appropriate, apt, chic, classy, colourful, delicate, delightful, dressy, elegant, fancy, fine, flattering, flowery, formal, fresh, gay, jazzy, pretty, quirky, tailored, tasteful, well-fitted,
colourful, decorative, elegant, handy, light, practical, precise, specific, stylish, tasty, useful,
airy, average, balmy, breezy, calm, clear, delightful, fresh, hazy, lazy, peaceful, quiet, restful, refreshing, salty, vibrant, warm, welcome,
appetizing, tasty, spicy, yummy, appealing,
You get the picture.
You could add many of your own suggestions, I’m sure. A good source of words is a thesaurus; it can be tedious - so many words, such a lot of black and white, so many pages - but it’s extremely useful. These days, some are arranged to be more user-friendly, using colour to differentiate or larger print to be easier on the eye.
Source of Alternative Words
Now Put Them in a Sentence
Words are not much use out of context, so let’s have a look at putting some of these to work. Below are a few examples of including appropriate words in sentences which might occur often.
She’s a nice person:
She’s such an endearing person that everyone enjoys her company.
He’s so helpful, even when I ask him to clean my mud-covered car.
My friends are delightful, always kind and making me laugh.
The nice thing about... :
The best thing about Fred is his fantastic physique!
The likeable thing about Sarah is her smile.
The attractive thing about Betty is her body!
It was a nice.... :
It was a pleasant evening so we all stayed outside for Pimm’s on the patio.
That was an enjoyable party at Tracy’s; the food was tasty and so was she in that flattering dress.
What a clever idea of yours to build a barbecue on the roof!
That was a handy idea, making a turn-table for the quintuplets.
So now you can go through all your writing, all your stories, articles and hubs, look at your choice of vocabulary and maybe change a few. I’ll be doing the same. How nice is that?!
Jane Austen's View of 'Nice'
‘Nice’ is used so often that it has come to mean something mundane, or even not good, because people don’t try to find a better word, aren’t inspired to use a more fitting, dynamic or spectacular word.’
What better support for my opinion than a quote from the perceptive, witty, sometimes sarcastic writing of Jane Austen. Here is another from a paragraph in ‘Northanger Abbey ‘ where the author is indirectly having her own rant about ‘nice’ through the character of Henry Tilney,
‘... and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement - people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.’
I’m glad to be in accordance with such a renowned author as Miss Austen.
More Examples of Jane Austen's Writing
Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which comment, often with wit and sarcasm, upon the British landed gentry and society at the end of the 18th century. Much of her comments came from personal observation and experience of that society.
The following are quotes from my two favourite Austen novels. They illustrate her use of words for specific effect.
From 'Pride & Prejudice':
Mr Bennett (Elizabeth’s father) is a kind and intelligent man. He tolerates the superficiality of his wife who tends to be flighty and has little sense. Elizabeth is proposed to by the most unsuitable Mr Collins, whom she does not love, and her father’s reaction is this:
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”
There is a rhythm in this text, there is humour and there is a sense of Mr Bennett's character.
From 'Sense & Sensibility':
“It is not everyone,' said Elinor, 'who has your passion for dead leaves.”
She says this to Marianne who has been waxing lyrical about dead leaves in winter, ‘driven in showers about me by the wind’. Marianne is a total romantic, interested in poetry, music and art. Elinor brings her down to earth with her practicality, if a little sarcastic. It is humorous, short and to the point. The use of the word 'dead' has the effect of finishing the conversation.
Which words are your pet hates? Do you agree that a careful choice of words is important? There are so many good writers here on hubpages, many of whom can teach me a thing or two about composition so I’d love to hear your views and comments.
Your challenge is to come up with a brilliant description of one of the three photos at the beginning of this hub. Weave that description into a story or poem of some sort. Off you go!
Don’t forget to let me know if you respond to this challenge! Please provide a link so that I can add it to this hub.
https://hubpages.com/literature/Ann-Arts-Challenge-Latest - Eric Dierker
https://hubpages.com/literature/Under-the-Might-A-Poem-in-Response-to-Annarts-Description-Challenge - Rinita Sen (Senoritaa)
https://hubpages.com/literature/The-Magic-Dragon-of-Norwich - John Hansen (Jodah)
https://hubpages.com/literature/The-True-Order-of-... - Rodric Johnson
https://hubpages.com/literature/Forgive-Me-Father-A-Short-Fiction-Story-by-John-Hansen-and-Chris-Mills - Chris Mills & John Hansen collaboration
The Writer's World
Why is a good choice of vocabulary important to you?
© 2018 Ann Carr