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How can I find always the shortest word?

One of the most important rules which authors should follow is: always use the shortest word. But often you don’t find them. However, I think you have to do this for an excellent reading flow. Because of you told me I should write shorter sentence. I mean “I reveal it” is shorter than “I tell the truth about it.”, but it means the same thing. So, what are your best tips to find the shortest?


Myth Weaver
I've never heard that rule. And seems fairly stupid.
It sounds like a rule that an advertising exec came up with.
You use the words and the number of words you need to tell your story well.
Even if it is the same general story, if you are writing a Crime/Noire story it will be a different set and number of words, than perhaps, if you are writing a Romance or a Fantasy.
Me, I can be a purple writer. I like lots of words as fulsome and expressive as can be managed on the page.
I also like Noire, so terse works too.


Article Team
Where have you heard this rule? I've come across a lot of rules about writing, but I can't recall having heard this one before. The closest one I can think of is "always use the best word" but that's not necessarily the shortest. It's also up to your own judgement which is the best.

One of the things to keep in mind with writing is that it's not an exact science. It's not even a science. There are a lot of theories and a lot of pieces of advice being passed around, and they're often passed off as rules (I do it myself now and then), but it's important to keep in mind that not all "rules" apply equally to all people or to all situations. A lot of the time, you just have to wing it and go with what feels right for the moment.

That said, one of my favourite "rules" of writing comes from Neil Gaiman, and it's something along the lines of:

You can do anything, as long as you do it with confidence.

I think that's a great piece of advice. The main drawback is that it can be really difficult to be confident.

EDIT: As to your actual question, you can browse synonyms for words on Thesaurus.com - The world's favorite online thesaurus!


"Always use the shortest word" is a sure fire way to never have any poetic qualities to your story. It's how to murder flow in one swift move.

Insolent Lad

I admittedly do write and edit with the thought to be as concise as possible. If I think of a better way of saying something, I will. But if I don't, no big deal, as long as I still said what I meant. I think this might be a rule more suited to nonfiction articles than stories.
I recommend finding the most ridiculously huge German word for whatever you might be trying to say and use that.

Or maybe not. But it’s at least as good of advice as finding the shortest word.


Article Team
IMHO, this isn't a good rule to follow. Word choice is depends on many factors, what feel you're trying to convey, who your POV character is, etc.

If you want to convey a character is snob, you use language that would portray this. Sometimes this means using big and fancy words. If you want to convey a character uneducated and rough, you'd probably use simpler language.

It all depends on what you're trying to do. Writing is about the right word at the right time.