The Write Words
by Stuart Aken
These posts aim to help writers improve their language use. It’s easy to fall into bad habits; using redundancies, applying tautology, and employing clichés. Adverbs come easily, but is the verb you’re using the best for the piece? Suggestions here are the opinion of one writer: it’s worth remembering writing rules are guidelines rather than absolutes, so use your experience and judgment to determine how best to enhance your text.
Synonyms are alternative words that have the power to convey exactly what you’re trying to say.
Kill: we all know what this word means. Or do we? To end a life is a finality, after all. But this is a word that contains many other, subtle meanings. Among those listed in Roget’s Thesaurus are destroy, kill, hinder, victory, prohibit, and execute. Then there are six phrases that rely on this word: kill oneself, kill the fatted calf, kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, kill the pain, kill time, and kill with kindness, each of which has its own set of subtle variations.
Usage for Kill:
‘Jim was hungry. He told Jill he could kill for a hot beef sandwich.’ ‘Jamie was so irritated by the sounds from the neighbours she went round there and yelled at them to kill the noise.’ ‘If you shoot that gun, you’ll kill me. Is that what you want? The death of a fellow human, the ending of a potential you can’t even begin to understand, the cessation of a being you don’t even know?’
Cliché: a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s so overused it no longer holds power. However, clichés come into being because of their original and effective ability to describe a situation or quality in apposite terms. Their use should be sparing: in dialogue, they’re fine, providing the speaker would use them. They’re words or expressions we’ve all encountered more times than…Here, I might use a cliché to illustrate a cliché.
Know the score: this expression means to understand the reality of a situation, to know what ‘it’ is all about.
‘I know the score; you want me out of here, so you can take over and run the place in your own corrupt way.’ We could rephrase this without the cliché; ‘I know you want me out of here, so you can take over the place and run it in your own corrupt manner.’
Adverbs, as the word describes, are an addition to a verb. A strong verb always wins over an adverb propping up a weak one. Alternatively, a change in sentence structure can help to express the same idea in a better way.
Knowingly: something done knowingly is carried out with an awareness of the consequences of the action.
‘When Joe knowingly told his colleague the shift would start at 09:00 the next day, he was aware the man would arrive late and lose his job, giving Joe the chance to step up to the next grade.’ We can avoid the adverb by using a strong verb instead. ‘Joe lied about the start of the shift, making sure his colleague would arrive late and lose his job, and giving Joe a chance of promotion.’
About the Author
Stuart Aken, born to a homeless, widowed artist, in a neighbour’s bed, describes himself as a romantic, open-minded, radical liberal. Raised by a creative, loving mother and a step-father who educated him in things natural and worldly, he had what he describes as an idyllic childhood.
An author who refuses to be shackled by genre, he’s written romance, thrillers, sci-fi, humour, fantasy and an autobiographical, self-help memoir, aimed at sufferers from ME/CFS. His fiction is the only place he bends the truth and, after love, remains his raison d’être.