The #Write #Word? Post 20

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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: Melodramatic, Momentarily, More perfect, Mostly, Mokita, M.P.

Synonyms are alternative words that might say exactly what you’re trying to convey.

Melodramatic: Roget lists only 3 headings for this; exaggerated, dramatic, and exciting. Under ‘exaggerate’ are a further 89 suggestions including inflate, add a flourish, embroider, overemphasize, caricature, gild the lily, melodramatize, go to extremes, tell a tall tale, and intensify. I suspect most people are aware of the popular art form of the Victorian theatre known as melodrama, where a style of presentation used emphasis, music and unlikely plots to entertain the audience.

Usage for Melodramatic:

‘Basil, highly strung and emotional, often lets minor frustrations to his daily plans expand in his mind until he grows so melodramatic that no one takes him seriously.’

‘The current chaos in the increasingly complex issue of Britain’s separation from the European Union has become a melodramatic performance worthy of the most hilarious of pantomimes.’

You can see that usage generally refers to the behaviour of an individual or group, but can be equally applied to actual presentations.

Words often misused: because it has stolen terms from many languages, English often uses words that superficially appear to mean something similar. However, as wordsmiths, we owe it to our readers to get it right, don’t you think?

Momentarily: (UK) For a moment, fleetingly. (USA) In a moment, soon. One of the many words that illustrates how nation states can be divided by a ‘common’ language. As writers, we need to be careful how we use such words, since we hope to have readers on both side of the ocean that separates us.

A British writer might, correctly, state; ‘We’ll meet momentarily.’ and mean ‘We will come together for a short time.’ But the same phrase from an American pen would mean ‘We will come together soon.’ Because of this difference in meaning, it might be best if both nations restrict usage, and instead employ a synonym, perhaps? Maybe use ‘briefly’, ‘for a short time’ in UK and ‘soon’, ‘in a moment’ in USA to avoid confusion.

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.

More perfect:

Perfection describes something, or someone, at the pinnacle of excellence. It’s not possible to be better than perfect. Perfect is an absolute. And modifiers don’t apply to absolutes.  Something is either perfect or not; imperfect. It’s not grammatically correct to describe something as ‘nearly perfect’ nor as ‘more perfect’. Such expressions appear daily in conversation, and are therefore legitimate when used in dialogue. But we should avoid them in narrative.

Adverbs: words we all use incredibly often, lazily taking the easy route instead of diligently looking for stronger verbs.

Mostly: commonly, frequently, more often than not.

Usage for Mostly:

‘David’s relationships with women were mostly superficial affairs without benefit of love or lasting attachment; sexual liaisons he saw largely as conquests or seductions requiring no commitment.’

We could try ‘David’s relationships with women lacked depth, love or lasting attachment; sexual liaisons he considered conquests or seductions requiring no commitment.’ Of course, we could be brutal, and honest, and say ‘David used women. He seduced them into his bed and rejected them once he’d satisfied his lust.’

Untranslatable emotions: The world’s languages contain numerous words for emotions (and other things) for which English has no equivalent. Most people know ‘schadenfreude’, from German, and ‘frisson’, from French, but there are more, and I’ll introduce some here from time to time.

Mokita: the truth we all know but agree not to address. The comparable English expression would be ‘the elephant in the room’.

And, my own, sometimes humorous, sometimes metaphorical, definition of some common words for your entertainment, which I’ll list under The Delusional Dictionary.

M.P. (UK, Member of Parliament – 650 in 2018) an elected representative of the people, who invariably bows to the wishes of political party rather than constituents; any unqualified, unrepresentative, overpaid, self-promoting individual eager to express views on every subject, regardless of knowledge or expertise; a person of dubious moral standards desperate to instruct those who pay his/her wages about what’s right and wrong.

Language learners might find this link useful for pronunciation, and you’ll find a great group page on Facebook via this link.

I contribute a monthly column to an online magazine, Pandora’s Box Gazette, where I also deal with the use of words. To see the most recent, please click this link.

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