Tips on Word Choice No.20: Ruled by Intellect or Emotion?

English: Emma Watson at the film premiere of H...
English: Emma Watson at the film premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in Avery Fisher Hall-Lincoln Center, New York City in July 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certain words/phrases can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

For these few weeks, I’m looking at something subjective: how to choose between emotional and intellectual words for effect. You won’t always agree with me, of course; you’re writers. But, hopefully, my suggestions will get the thought processes going.

In this series I’m looking at the difference between words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that evoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Courageous

Emotional: Brave

‘Sir Humphrey considered Jim Hacker’s decision to tell his constituents the truth to be courageous, which translated into “foolish”.’

‘How brave of Emily Parker to fight her cancer in public.’

Intellectual: Intelligent

Emotional: Bright

‘Hermione Granger is one of most intelligent students, combining a retentive memory with a thorough understanding of the rules of magic.’

‘Oh, come on, Hermione; you’re a very bright witch!’

Intellectual: Superior To

Emotional: Better Than

‘There is no doubt in the minds of the establishment that children educated in fee-paying schools are superior to those who attend state schools.’

‘You might like to think you’re better than me, mate, but the evidence is that you’re simply more educated in those things that have no real connection to ordinary life.’

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