Sometimes struggle to find the ‘right’ word for your writing? I do. Maybe, in trying to improve my own work, I can help other writers.
Today’s words: Epic, Decimate, Filled(full) to capacity, Go the extra mile.
Synonyms are alternative words that might say exactly what you’re trying to convey.
Epic: Roget’s gives the following headers; (Noun) film, narrative, poem. (Adjective) prolix, descriptive.
I suspect we’re all aware of the noun usage: a film that’s an epic, an epic poem, a narrative that’s epic in its construction.
The adjectival use is of more interest, though. Roget provides a good many alternatives under the two headers, including (prolix) long-winded, spun out, made to last, lengthy, discursive, rambling, circumlocutory, (descriptive) representational, vivid, evocative, heroic, picaresque, full, and imaginative.
Let’s look at usage for Epic:
‘With Jordan, an ordinary tale can reach epic proportions. He has to clothe the bones of any tale in excess flesh.’
‘Plutonium Partridge play hard rock and are absolutely epic. I could listen to that new band just forever!’
Words often misused: English, because of its inheritance of words stolen from many languages, often uses words that superficially appear to mean more or less the same thing. However, as wordsmiths, we owe it to our readers to get it right, don’t you think?
Decimate: often confused with ‘destroy’. To decimate means ‘to kill one in 10’. It’s known as a form of punishment used by the Romans on misbehaving legions. However, the frequency of its use is disputed, and it was probably not as common as is generally believed.
Now, the word is often used figuratively to describe very heavy casualties. But using expressions like ‘completely decimated’ or ‘decimated more than half the mob’ is both inaccurate and lazy. Probably best not to use this word when describing destruction involving over ten percent of the victims of any event.
Redundancies: words serving no purpose. In speech, they’re spacers, giving the speaker time to think. But in writing they slow the reader’s progress.
Filled (full) to capacity: if something is filled, its entire space is used up. It can’t get any ‘fuller’. ‘Capacity’ is therefore unnecessary, makes your writing wordy, and should be avoided. Just describe the space as ‘full’; it says it all.
Cliché: a stereotyped or hackneyed expression; a phrase, opinion or other element of language that’s so overused it no longer holds power. However, clichés come into being as the result of their original and effective ability to describe a situation or quality in apposite terms. Their use should be sparing: in dialogue, they’re fine, providing the speaker would use them. They are words or expressions we’ve all encountered more times than…Here, I could use a cliché to illustrate what a cliché might be.
Go the extra mile: this expression means to make a greater effort than is deemed necessary to fulfil the set task, to do more than is expected of you. It has a more irritating, and inaccurate, partner expression using the claim that someone has made more than a hundred percent effort, (a hundred and ten percent, a hundred and fifty percent, etc.) which is ludicrous, since it’s impossible to put in more than the whole of the effort available to you.
Next time you’re tempted have a character ‘go the extra mile’, perhaps use a different form of words to express the ‘extra effort’; maybe ‘more than expected’, or ‘greater than required’.
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