The #Write #Word? Post 30

Word cloud created through

Struggling to find the ‘right’ word for your writing? You’re not alone. Maybe, in trying to improve my own work, I can help other writers.

Today’s words: Waggish/Serious, Wetly, With reference to, Weather the storm, Writer.

Antonyms: words that express the opposite of other words can be hard to find, because thesauruses usually give no examples. When lost for such opposites, if I can’t dig a suitable word from my grey matter, I reach for ‘The New Nuttall Dictionary of English Synonyms and Antonyms’ published 1986, which generally solves my dilemma.

Waggish: Roget provides the following headers: merry, amused, witty, and funny. Under ‘witty’ it gives a further 58 alternatives including pithy, sparkling, too clever by half, risqué, facetious, roguish, jocular, and droll.

Serious: the thesaurus gives the following synonym headers: great, attentive, wise, resolute, intending, important, dangerous, serious, dull, and heinous. Under the header ‘serious’ it lists another 45 substitutes including sober, staid, grave, dour, po-faced, dull and tedious.

Usage for Waggish:

‘Even under the most desperate circumstances, Ronald could be inappropriately waggish.’

‘Samantha had about her a waggish air, injecting humour in situations to lighten the mood and raise the spirits of those around her.’

Usage for Serious:

‘Though his companions joked and laughed about the failure, Ronald remained serious and refused to join in what he saw as a frivolous response to a dangerous situation.’

‘Surrounded by friends determined to party their way through the darkness, Samantha found herself outnumbered as she alone saw the serious nature of the circumstances they encountered.’

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


‘Her final words had Ahmed staring wetly at Mara’s disappearing back in sorrowful disbelief.’ This awful sentence, especially without context, tells the reader very little.

Let’s try again.

‘They’d been a couple for almost three years when Mara had delivered her ultimatum. His failure to respond in time brought a frown of incredulity to her face before she turned and stalked off. Ahmed watched her lovely form, distorted through his tears of paralysing sorrow, as she left him at last.’

Now we have a picture of an event, and some intriguing detail to tempt us into the story.

Plain-Language Alternatives for Wordy Phrases: some writers, especially those new to the craft, use more words than necessary. We can often substitute a single word for a phrase.

With reference to:

What does it mean? It means ‘about’. A simple, one-word description to replace a pompous phrase that would be better rejected unless it was used as a guide to the character of the officious speaker.

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.

Weather the storm: I suspect we all know that this expression means to get through some form of trouble, to survive a crisis. ‘Don’t worry, Gregor, we’ll weather the storm.’  Might be better expressed as, ‘Don’t worry, Gregor, we can manage.’ Or, ‘…we can deal with this.’ Or any number of alternatives to avoid the cliché.

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

Writer: any of a vast army of individuals who inflict their penned words on a poor, unsuspecting public, often for profit; someone with an idea they believe will make a book; a person determined to tell an author the story of their life, regardless of its intrinsically boring nature; a dreamer who believes unschooled words strung together in a loose form will bring them fame and fortune.

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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