Looking for the Best Word? Tip #41

Word cloud created via Prowritingaid.com

Here’s a bit of help for writers who want to make their work more interesting, varied, accurate and effective by using the most appropriate words. There are also insights into some peculiarities of English for those learning the language.

A good thesaurus gives substitutes for the idea of a word, but not all are true synonyms: context is vital. Check suitability by placing synonyms into a sentence to test if they make sense. But this isn’t foolproof, so a good dictionary is also essential.

My dictionary of choice is the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. And I prefer the 1987 edition of Roget’s Thesaurus for word selection. Though my copy is now showing signs of wear. I’ve installed WordWeb on my Mac for when I’m in a hurry and the apposite word evades me. And I’ve downloaded the Kindle edition of Kathy Steinemann’s ‘The Writer’s Lexicon’ to consult whilst editing my fiction, so I can inject more variety.

However, I attempt to dig the best word from my overloaded memory first: it’s good mental exercise, which I need on a regular basis! Many other books of words, which I occasionally consult when a word escapes me, live on reference shelves behind me.

So, to this week’s word: Alliteration

Alliteration is a figure of speech in which closely connected words begin with the same letter of the alphabet. It’s a device commonly used in poetry, but its use in prose can be effective in creating mood or tone, and may emphasise the subject of the sentence.

Alliteration – Roget lists these headers: assimilation, recurrence, ornament, and prosody. Under the sub-heading ‘recurrence’ are a further 41 alternatives including repetitiveness, succession, atavism, rhythm, assonance, monotony and routine.

Examples of alliteration:

‘Doggedly, David donated dollars to Doris despite her denial of devotion to him.’

‘Sylvie’s silken skin sent shivers of sensuality snaking over Sydney.’

‘Clive’s crass chorus of chanting cowboys created a cacophony of coarse chords clattering across the chamber.’

Hopefully, no one would actually use such examples. But I’m deep into editing a novel at present, and my poor creative mind is embedded in the story I’m creating, so my capacity for creating competent content here is currently confined. Sorry!

Language learners will find a great group page on Facebook.

I welcome observations and suggestions here. Please use the comments section below for your ideas and thoughts.

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