Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Word Choice: Consciousness as the Field of All Possibilities

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Who can argue with Mark Twain?

Choosing the right word is essential to good writing. From the perspective of consciousness-based writing, putting the right word on paper has its basis in thinking of the right word, and thinking of and choosing the right word has its basis in the comprehensiveness and clarity of one's consciousness.

As a writer, investing in your consciousness is even more important than investing in a good thesaurus and dictionary. These two necessities are not exclusionary, of course. I’ve invested in the Transcendental Meditation Program and Webster’s unabridged dictionary.

Six-Traits + 1 writing strategies identifies Word Choice as one of the traits. Words should get across what you are trying to say in aprecise, meaningful, and natural way.” According to the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, “Striking words and phrases often catch the reader’s eye and linger in the reader’s mind.” NREL's description is also a fine example of precise and striking word choice. All aspects of grammar are used in word selection—lively verbs, specific nouns, descriptive modifiers.

The effect of powerful word choice enhances both the definitive and emotional aspects of language: words have not only an intellectual meaning but also an emotional content. “Hundreds of words unsuitable to the atmosphere will prove futile against one word of value” is how Maharishi Mahesh Yogi described the power of choosing the lightning instead of the lightning bug power of a word.

Who you are has an important impact on word choice. Another value important to word choice is consideration of the audience and purpose of the writing. With consideration of the purpose of the writing, with sensitivity toward language as one writes, and with preparation for writing by being as wide awake within oneself as one can possibly be, then one writes...and rewrites.

Whatever is written can be rewritten. Whatever is drafted can be polished. The idea is conceptualized, evolves through the consciousness of the writer to the page, and then the writer can allow this child to meet the neighbors--other writers and users of language.

Can't think of the right word even though it's on the tip of your tongue? Maybe you'll get lucky and a friend will find that word for you. Good luck. Like wild berries, words are already glistening in the meadows of our language, ripe for the picking.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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