Word Choice

Bird. 

When you read that, what did you imagine?

I thought of a cartoon bird, the kind you draw¬†with an “m”.

If I say pigeon, what do you see?

Probably a pigeon. It’s a specific species of bird, so it’s hard to imagine anything but a pigeon, which is why word choice is crucial here. The mind constructs definitions through images, so every time you see a word, the time it takes you to read is the time you brain needs to see every word and interpret its meaning, which is why using highly visually-stimulating words is so crucial. Why word choice is such a big deal.

It also works with verbs.

She drew a dog.

She sketched a golden retriever.

Sketched to me is more descriptive in nature because it’s a specific type of drawing, when your hand makes light pencil marks to draw the outline of an object. Draw on the other hand is very bland. To draw something visualizes a drawing, a finished piece, rather than the action of the verb.

I would not suggest active-editing while writing, but going back through your work to look for better word choices where possible. If you can’t think something, try using a thesaurus, and if worst comes to worst, type in a description in google, like “word that means tiny and fragile”. A lot of times someone’s already posted it on a forum somewhere. (Microsoft Word has an automatic synonym feature – if you right click on a word, under synonym, it will give you a list of options.)