Finding the Right Word

Hey Creative Writer,

Have you even been in the middle of writing something when you come to a grinding halt because your brain stumbles on a word? You know you know it. It’s on the tip of  your tongue. And it’s the perfect word but you’re mind won’t produce it?

Yeah… we’ve all been there.

The thing about written communication is that it’s more difficult to convey meaning and easier to cause confusion. Without being able to rely on body language, expressions, tone, inflection and the like you are literally reliant on the words on the page. So, yes the right words matter.

It’s more than the meaning of the word, more than the definition- it’s the feeling, the presumption, the cadence and rhythm within the sentence, and the connotations, social and emotional, conjured by the word. The right word can take a sentence from common to quotable.

So, what do you do when that word just won’t come? Keep writing. Use a similar word and highlight it so you can come back and ruminate on that elusive word without impeding your progress.

Step away for a moment- it’s amazing how your brain can sort and find things when it has a moment to relax.

Google. Searching for similar words might just give you the option you were thinking of in the results. Or you may even find a better one.

Speak the line out loud. Getting your hearing involved uses a slightly different part of your brain and that could trigger the word to float to the surface to fill in the hole.

Create a list of the words you forget. Any time this happens and the word finally does pop into your head Write. It. Down. You might be surprised by the list of words your mind fumbles with and it might save you time when your searching for the word again.

And finally be patient and kind with yourself. Writing is re-writing. You may agonize over a word for that sentence only to find in editing that the whole paragraph needs to be deleted. Try not to get too attached or invest too much time- especially during the 1st and 2nd drafts.

Do you have any advice on finding the right word? Leave it in the comment section below.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Right Word

  1. So I know a thesaurus can be dangerous in the wrong hands, but is my favorite resource for this problem. Word maps can be easier for the brain to follow and don’t break the flow as much as paging through a book or a bunch of Google tabs. Love your placeholder suggestion–stalling out the whole endeavor over perfect words that might not make it out of edits is my favorite form of self-sabotage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I love just reading through the thesaurus and trying to find the differences of the similar words (What about them makes them individual) I’ve never done a word map- I’d love to get some more info on that! Maybe a post (hint hint)
    I do the same thing. I spend so much time trying to make everything sound good but in the long run sometimes it doesn’t matter because the idea isn’t quite right. I have a love/hate relationship with editing.


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