Choose Your Words Carefully

The one thing you can say for certain about words is that no two people use them the same way. They are symbols for understanding something and they are open to interpretation.

For anyone who wants to write comedy, this is surely a blessed state of affairs, bestowing upon us homonyms, alliteration and a host of other goodies. For any other form of writing – and writer – it suggests that we keep on our toes.
The internet abounds with stories of Advertising geniuses who failed to spot the meaning of a catchy name or the translation of the name in a different language. And yes, I know that the word ‘internet’ also translates as ‘urban myth’, but some of those tales are true:
I was at a writer’s meeting yesterday, where we gather together, read and critique one another’s work-in-progess and eat well. Warren was trying his damnedest (love that word!) to get a point across to me about ‘voice’ and I just couldn’t get my head around it. In the end, it all boiled down to using a metaphor that made sense to me. One could argue that we each speak our own dialect.
Content and Context – the Romulus and Remus of good writing – can sometimes produce minor classics, such as this job ad that might be suitable for a gerbil with a 50 wpm typing speed.

I also found this recently, which rather speaks for itself.
I recently contracted with an e-publisher for a short story of mine and we are now going through a joint edit. It’s fascinating to see how my words are interpreted and their insights into how that story can be improved for an international market. One word that I’d taken as commonplace turns out to be Middle English and not used in the US at all. Go figure!
There is a huge difference between writing for yourself and writing for your reader.


  1. Jess says:

    Hey now… some of us would really appreciate a small animal receptionist. 😉

    Also, I've heard it said that the difference between a writer who writes for himself and a writer who focuses on the audience is called "professionalism."

  2. Derek says:

    Hi Jess and thanks for stopping by. Nicely put, re the professionalism!

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