Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Use Your Words"...or Theirs

All of us have heard it. Limit your use of adjectives. Choose strong words that convey your meaning. Don't say 'He ran fast.' Say 'He sprinted.'

Today, as I read the news headlines, I saw this one. "Corning slashes up to 4900 jobs." Like most of you, I'm tired of reading bad news, so I let my eyes slide to the next story before I realized the headline writer was doing what we've been taught. Corning didn't lay off almost 5000 people, the company didn't cut that many jobs, they slashed their workforce by that number of people. Doesn't that verb convey a powerful image? Since I don't know anyone who works for Corning, I ordinarily wouldn't have any vested interest in this story except for the obvious effect this move will have on our already floundering economy. But after reading that headline, I went on to read the entire story. The headline writer hooked me. That's what we should do. Use strong verbs. Paint a word picture. Draw your reader in.

Watch the headlines, either on the web or in your local newspaper. Notice how many budgets get "trimmed" and extraneous items get "cut," while widespread reductions in the workforce are characterized by verbs like "slash." It's almost as though some of those people who write this stuff are trying to observe the same rules we "serious" writers do. Who'd have thought it?

And if you're looking for just the right word, may I once more recommend this tool that I've found particularly helpful.


Cindy said...

Thanks Richard,

I love little tips like this because, though some of them may seem so obvious, I take little notice of them until it's pointed out. And then I look over my manuscript and see that, for sure, there are many moments in action and interaction that could be improved by a simple little tip.

God bless and best wishes with all your writing,

Anonymous said...

Great tip, Richard. Thanks for sharing.

Hope you're staying safe through all the ice storms...