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Words That You Avoid

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Laurence, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. said. ... Hahaha!
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Postpositive conjunction! For some reason that little lesson from grad school stuck. However (in its common usage) is a conjuction and so ought not start a sentence. When you spot yourself doing that, move it further into the sentence where it fits grammatically. Chances are, you'll also find you don't need it or you can write the sentence in a different, stronger way.

    However that may be, the word can start a sentence when not used as a conjuction. It's one of those silly bits of English word engineering in that it is really two words stuck together. How. Ever. It can still be separated. It doesn't matter how you ever manage a sentence, there can be opportunities to separate how from ever.

    Poor words. We do mistreat them so, don't we?
    FifthView likes this.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Given my natural tendency, I probably ought to create a list for myself so when I edit and revise I can do searches on However, Actually, Usually, and so forth!
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I've heard that suggestion from editors. There are warning word lists out there you could use as a starter, then edit to your particular style. I keep meaning to do this, but I follow my own advice even less often than Alice followed hers.
    FifthView likes this.
  5. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

    Honestly, I feel like if I avoided using all the words the experts say to avoid then I'd have a difficult time expressing myself. Everything within moderation.
  6. A lot of people are mentioning swearing/obscenity.

    I used to be told a lot that using "bad" language was never necessary and was even "lazy" and showed that i wasn't creative. Well...that just doesn't work for all stories, apparently. It feels icky to try to deliberately censor my characters' dialogue, and that's what I found myself doing. They wanna swear. SO now, swear, they do.

    That said, the swearing in my books is actually pretty sparse?? I just don't feel the need to drop f-bombs every other page. Ruins the effect.
  7. Yora

    Yora Maester

    I think it's a great word I use in writing all the time. But it's a word used in making arguments and explanation done in writing. I can't really see it being used well in fiction. Specifically is another such word. I don't avoid them, but I don't even see places where they could be used.

    Words that I avoid are terms for concepts that we take for granted but are actually specific to our culture, while I usually attempt to make the settings feel distinctive non-european. Like Evil. There are so many assumptions that come with the word, many of which I specifically want to be absent from the setting. Talking about terrible and dangerous people and their place in society and history without using the word Evil is actually a bit of work, but I think it's worth it. There's several more, but they don't come to mind right now.

    Something that I think only bothers me as a non-native speaker is the use of "a person, that..." You can say "a person, who ...." and who is a word for people and that is a word for things. It always looks wrong.
  8. Evil originally meant 'uppity'.
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    >Evil originally meant 'uppity'.

    I'm not sure where John Ayto gets that from. The word has meant "bad" in one sense or another for a very long time and across Germanic languages. It may be he is emphasizing the "ueber" part, but it may also be that people are quoting him out of context. None of the articles I found did more than reproduce the quote from Ayto, without providing a citation. Just because the root of the word means something like "overstepping accepted limits" doesn't necessarily mean the derived word meant "uppity." As far back as we see the word used (9thc or so), it means something closer to "bad" or "ill" without the specifically Christian overtones.

    Sorry about jumping in there. It's sort of trigger for me when I hear "originally meant" or "really meant". Words are incredibly complex and malleable, and are used by beings who are even more complex and malleable. The greatest etymologist of them all was Humpty Dumpty. <grin>

    What I really ought to say, more politely, is that "uppity" may well have been one connotation, but probably not the only one.
  10. Who's John Ayto?

    I used my etymological dictionary to find out. It's probably wrong, as you said.
  11. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    I don't know either. From the etymologies I've seen, evil's denotation of badness comes all the way from Proto-Indo-European.
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I didn't quite say it was wrong, only that there was more to it than "uppity."

    Ayto is a lexicographer. He gets cited on a couple of sites, but without specific attribution. He's the only one I've found who uses that rather specific word, so I suspect these websites are quoting from one of his books. It's a pity they don't cite the source, as I'd like to be able to see his argument.
  13. Tom

    Tom Istar

    I don't use swearing in narrative unless it's an integral part of the viewpoint character's voice. When I'm writing dialogue, however, especially modern colloquial dialogue...let's just say that my inner college student comes out on the page.

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