1. masterjasco
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    masterjasco New Member

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    is the use of fancy words necessary?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by masterjasco, Jul 15, 2010.

    i've noticed while reading novels that some writers use "fancy words" instead of a word used in everyday life.i take it that a lot of writers have degrees but when it's in novels like star wars, i can't help but wonder if they are just added to make the writer seem more intelligent? should i be using "fancy words" in my novel? i don't want my readers to have to stop every so often to look words up in the dictionary, as i have had to do on the odd occassion. what would you suggest?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What you considers fancy might be a natural part of others vocabulary. Write in whatever way you feel comfortable doing and respect others for doing the same with the words they are comfortable with.
     
  3. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    There was already a thread like this....

    Just consider your target audience. Children's books usually stick to simple words, whereas YA stuff is more normal, with a few "fancy" words sprinkled in. I did have to look up "benign" from reading Harry Potter, but I was only 10.

    The bottom line is, stick to the words YOU know. There have been terrible instances where authors don't make a bit of sense because they tried using a word they don't fully understand.

    But, capitalizing beginnings of sentences also makes you sound very intelligent ;).
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes the "fancy" word is the right word. Words that are usually considered synonyms usually aren't, exactly; there are slight differences in meaning. Does "big" mean exactly the same thing as "large"? Or "enormous" or "immense" or "sizeable"? An author may choose the word that has exactly the right meaning. In other cases, the author may choose a "fancy" word because it has the right rhythm or some other property that fits well into the sentence that he's writing.

    And, as others have said, a word that is fancy to you may not be fancy to the author, and may not be fancy to most of the author's readership.
     
  5. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    While I don't mind 'fancy' words, I would prefer the words that are the best for that sentence or what the author is trying to say. Sometimes the smallest of words can be just as effective. Also before using a 'fancy' word, the author should know its proper use.

    Though it does bug me when I have to reach out for a dictionary every few sentences.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the need for examples of these fancy words. Some fancy words, in the right context, carry meaning and nuances that you'd need a paragraph to duplicate. Other fancy words use six syllables to express something that you could have expressed just as well (or better) with two syllables.
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Masterjasco, I take it you never read Bill Buckley. I do believe that man ATE dictionaries for breakfast! And he thrived on showing off every good word at his disposal.

    Fancy? I guess you're talking about using a two dollar word when a fifty cent one would do? As W176 already pointed out, a lot of what one might consider 'fancy' vs. 'everyday' could depend a great deal on the extent of one's vocabulary. While some might deliberately look for those 'high falutin' words to interject in their writing, others use those same words in everyday conversation as a matter of course. I have a friend who, even as a child, used a far more expansive vocabulary than people twice her age. Her mother's mantra was, "Use your words," and she made sure her daughter had plenty of them to use.

    That being said, a well-respected academician, a language professor, once told me that one of the best signs of intelligence is to be able to converse with anyone on their own level be it a highly degreed person or a high school drop out. The same would apply to writing. One should consider the audience and skew their writing accordingly. But then we find ourselves back at that issue of what one takes for everyday vocabulary. And, just because you know seventeen different words to say something, doesn't mean you should use them all in your writing. *sigh*
     
  8. Perdondaris
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    Perdondaris Member

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    Well, it generally depends on how they sound. While you're writing, you should probably have some idea of what atmosphere you are trying to create at the time. This may be enhanced by the 'flow' and rhythm of the words, which is why it's generally best to know the words beforehand, so that one may write them as part of a sentence without getting distracted by a thesaurus, etc. Clark Ashton Smith, for example, had read through the dictionary, but we can still find things like this in his work:

    We have seen strange atoms
    Trysting on the air—
    The dust of vanished lovers
    Long parted in despair,
    And dust of flowers that withered
    In worlds of otherwhere.


    Similarly:

    He breathes with a rattle of pleasure, he shakes his plumes,
    He erects his muscular and naked neck,
    He lifts, lashing the hard snow of the Andes,
    With a hoarse cry he mounts where never wind attains,
    And far from the dark globe, far from the living world,
    He sleeps in the icy air on his great wings.


    Throwing 'effulgence' and such in would have had an adverse effect on those stanzas. On the other hand, we also have things like this:

    It is I,
    The king, who holds with scepter-dropping hand
    The helm of some great barge of orichalchum,
    Sailing upon an amethystine sea
    To isles of timeless summer: for the snows
    Of Hyperborean winter, and their winds,
    Sleep in his jewel-builded capital,
    Nor any charm of flame-wrought wizardry,
    Nor conjured suns may rout them; so he flees,
    With captive kings to urge his serried oars,
    Hopeful of dales where amaranthine dawn
    Hath never left the faintly sighing lote
    And lisping moly.


    Quite a few fancy words there, but the passage works well in context, and the shorter 'lote' and 'moly' are made more powerful by the previous usage of 'orichalcum', 'amaranthine', 'amethystine', etc . Of course, in this case we have poetry rather than prose, but the two are quite similar in this respect.

    "Above this land of my dream, citied with tombs and cenotaphs, a red and smouldering sun maintains a spectral day, in alternation with an ashen moon through the black ether where the stars have long since perished. And through the hush of the consummation of time, above the riven monuments and crumbled records of alien history, flit in the final twilight the mysterious wings of seraphim, sent to fulfill ineffable errands, or confer with demons of the abyss: and black, gigantic angels, newly returned from missions of destruction, pause amid the sepulchers to sift from their gloomy and tremendous vans the pale ashes of annihilated stars."

    The passage attains its effect well through its use of rhythm, and uses 'fancy' language to get this done. Of course, if one is not entirely sure that the fancy word means what one thinks that it means, it's best not to use it; after all, words have meanings as well as sounds, and these have just as much, if not more, effect on the atmosphere of the piece. "Scarce audible now at all was the sound of his heart: it was like a church bell tolling beyond hills for the death of some one unknown and far away."
     
  9. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    This reminds me of an episode in 'Friends' where Joey writes an adoption recommendation letter for Monica and Chandler but he wants to sound clever so he uses the thesaurus on every word. Just a tad ridiculous.
    But yeah, don't feel you have to use 'fancy' words or anything. Write using vocabulary you're comfortable with.
     
  10. masterjasco
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    masterjasco New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies, much appreciated. W176 it's not that i'm uncomfortable with the author's vocabuary (i have several of his books which i enjoy very much) it was just the fact that they were star wars books and i guess in a way i figure them to be YA books (though i'm more towards the 30's mark) so wondered if it was necessary. But thanks for the advice, it will help me a lot.
     
  11. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    It's not the size, it's how you use it.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you insist on using fancy words, be absolutely certain you are using them correctly.

    It's more important to be clear and precise than to be erudite.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Don't endeavor to enstupificate your audience by demonstrifying how vocabularious you are.

    It makes you look kinda dumb.
     
  14. MissBelle
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    MissBelle Member

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    I would use the words that fit best. If a "fancy" word fits best, use it. But using it just to be fancy, is pretty lame. No one will judge you for using simpler words when they are the right words.
     
  15. BlueWolf
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    BlueWolf Banned

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    There is nothing wrong with using unusual words, so long as they fit into the story (or indeed character). The English language is rich and varied, but it is noticeable when a writer uses a 'fancy' word when there was no need for it - it sticks out like a cankerous thumb. See? Doesn't work, does it?

    The only time it always works, is if a character in the book actually speaks like this. I have one of those in my novel, who has a need to use a five syllable word, when a one or two syllable word would have been better. This works even more so, because the main character is a relative simpleton, and usually has no clue what the other is saying, resulting in him saying, "umm" and "ah" a lot.
     
  16. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think writing simple has value in itself. It makes it easier on the reader and makes the audience wider. Expressing your ideas in the simplest and most efficient way is a sign of skill.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Simplest (here meaning shortest/easiest) and most efficient (meaning most clear in as few words as possible) aren't always the same thing. Longer, less used words don't exist simply to irk people and make money for printers of dictionaries, they usually better (read: more specifically, more efficiently) express concepts or ideas that would require a longer string of 'simpler' words.

    Writing simply for the sake of it is, in my opinion, as ill-advised as using all the polysyllabic words you know for the sake of it. You should write in whatever style best suits the piece you are working on. And this, after all, is a question of style, something every author should be concerned with (I say at the expense of anything/everything else, others would probably disagree, but that's neither here nor there).
     
  18. Addison
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    Addison Member

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    No, what makes you look dumb is looking up a big word just so you can use one. If you have an expansive vocabulary and you know how to use it without endangering the precision and clarity of your work, then, by all means, do so.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    No matter how expansive the vocabulary of the writer is and how well they used the language, personally I find nothing more irritating than being in the middle of a good story and having to get off my backside and go and find the dictionary.
     
  20. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    I enjoy learning new words, though it's definitely not something I want to have to do on a regular basis whilst reading fiction.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    me too and whilst reading non fiction its fine, if I am already studying.. I however read fiction for fun, relaxation and enjoyment. I like to get carried away in the story. My vocabulary is quite good and I understand a huge swathe of the English language, but I find nothing detracts from my reading, worse than a name or word I can't pronounce,. It really jars.

    I also find it annoying in everyday speech or lectures, Unless the word belongs to a technical expertise that is needed for the conversation.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this.

    And the danger in saying "Hey, this author is using too many big words," is that it is as likely (more likely?) to reflect on the reader as the author :)
     
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't say anything just wouldn't buy the next book:) or read the next story. I'd just assume the author hadn't wanted dimwits like me too read it lol

    But I am another who has found when someone is trying to talk over you they usually don't know what they are on about:)
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Makes sense, Elgaisma. I think judging whether the author is using too many fancy words will be pretty subjective. I look at it from the perspective of the larger work. I like some older writing, for example. Melville, Conrad, Lovecraft if you want to talk genre writing. Good stuff, and these writers use a lot of what people might now consider "fancy" words. But it works great for those books.

    A more modern work that I love is Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, and if you want to talk about an expansive vocabulary, Peake has it. But again it fits perfectly with the work and the mood Peake achieves throughout. Another great example is Angela Carter.

    On the other hand, I like the novels of Richard Laymon, a horror writer. And if someone tried to write a Laymon-type story and weighed it down with the vocabulary of a Peake or Lovecraft, it wouldn't work.

    I guess what I'm saying is that as long as it is done effectively in a given work, the author can use as many fancy words (or disregard them entirely) as he sees fit.
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree its entirely subjective, I tire easily of a fiction book that requires work from myself, whereas others like to think. Gormenghast for example I got fed up with very early on would much rather read the Hardy Boys lol
     

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