Tag Archives: words

Writing tips: overused and interchanged words, and writing characters of colour

Words that have been used to death

The consistently useful WordWise blog has a list of words that have been overused by marketers and other writers to the point where they have lost all their original power.

As blog posts go, it’s a seamlessly integrated synergistic paradigm-shifting solution, leveraging a win-win proactive strategy for facilitating robust communications. Or rather, it’ll help you not sound like a hackneyed personal development coach every time you sit down at the keyboard.

Words that get interchanged incorrectly

Word Wise also has another post that lists words frequently yet improperly used in place of one another; ‘reluctant’ and ‘reticent’, for example.

I’m always secretly rather pleased that I usually know the right use for each word when I read a post like this, but every now and again I’ll discover an error I’ve been making for years. Which is one of the reasons I’m so fond of the online Chambers Dictionary reference page, which I can search from the Firefox search box … it’s saved me from more than one potentially embarrassing mistake in the past.

Writing characters of colour without being racist

While aimed at the fanfic community, this post offers great advice for anyone who wants to write about characters of a different ethnicity to their own, without falling into the trap of crass stereotyping. It’s also delivered with just the right mix of seriousness and humour:

You are probably wondering, “Good grief, this is a lot of work, and if I screw up, all I can do is lie down and get kicked in the head. Why on Earth should I write CoCs? I can just avoid the mess by only writing about white people!”

That thing where you are considering only writing about people of the same race as you is an exercise of white privilege. It is something that you are able to do because you are white.

I’ve not written enough fiction to have fallen into the trap of stereotyping coloured characters, or the even more insidious trap of never writing them at all for exactly that reason – all my characters so far have been equally cardboard, whatever their ethnicity. But having read the above post, I’m a little more confident about making the effort in future.

Editorial crutches – things that you write that you don’t need to write

Here’s an interesting post at the Word Wise blog, talking about editorial crutches:

“Everyone has them – the overuse of “despite” to single out a point of difference, relying on “however” to get you through a sentence, the ubiquitous “meanwhile” that lets you slip effortlessly into a new paragraph. And each, used sparingly, is fine. But they are, in any case, editorial crutches, the things you depend on for support.”

Looking through a few blog posts and old reviews, I can see that I’m more than a little guilty of this myself. I seem to be especially for of “of course” and “however” – and probably a few others that aren’t quite so obvious (at least not to me as their writer).

I’m going to start watching out for these in novels now. But I wonder if they’re entirely a bad thing? If a writer has a ‘voice’ of their own (which all good writers are supposed to have, as far as I can tell), how much of that voice is a function of the words and phrases they instinctively use at certain points? And how much of it gets squashed by editors before we get a chance to see it? Pointless questions, perhaps, but it’s a Saturday and I’m in a pointless questions kind of mood.