1. Sasziza
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    Sasziza Member

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    Sorely in need of less grandiose descriptors

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Sasziza, Jun 6, 2016.

    Hello. I've been writing a short story, and there is one paragraph I'm deeply unhappy with. It includes long strings of adjectives, and, worst of all, the word, "diaphanous". Could anybody give me pointers as to how to clean the paragraph up, sweep up the adjectives, and still maintain the impression and meaning? I'll post the paragraph if that's allowed.
     
  2. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Impression and meaning don't come from long words.

    Think of words like cloths; designs and complexity don't mean anything if they don't properly fit the subject. Heck, I've seen someone look beautiful in a garbage bag once.
    Not beautiful enough to risk picking that hitchhiker up, mostly due to my crippling fear of death, but close.
    Very close.
     
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  3. Sasziza
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    Sasziza Member

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    Mm, impression and meaning certainly aren't caused by the length of words - but what if the only word that describes exactly the image you're after happens to be awfully flowery? What in the world can I do about bloody "diaphanous"? I'm thinking of changing to "gossamery", as that hits half the mark, or some kind of "like a ___" simile, but I'm unsure.

    Your joke made me smile, so I threw you a like.
     
  4. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    If saying what it is doesn't work you could always describe how it was made, that usually paints an accurate picture.

    Failing that, write about how your character interacts with it.

    "The thin, finely woven... rag," that was the only word i had for it, these rich folk probably had longer, made up, ones like diaphanous or gossamery, "it had to be worth more than its weight in gold!"

    Of course the thing was so damn thin i wouldn't be surprised if it didn't weigh anything at all, but Jim didn't need to know that.
    He just needed to get me in the front door.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Diaphanous is a perfectly good word. I don't know how it fits into your paragraph or writing style, because I haven't seen your writing, but if the word exactly describes the cloth, then go ahead and use it. You could describe the cloth as thin, see-through and billowy, but why do that when there is a single word that contains all three concepts?

    I'm wary of dumbing down our language, and making words like diaphanous seem to be pretentious, when what they are is 'exact.'
     
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  6. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Its an exact word with a very specific meaning, but what it doesn't have is connotation.

    Connotation, what the word means to the reader, is how past just what a word stands for, you can pass on a feeling.
    Words like this are cold and distant.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Chained - It all depends on the context, and the writer's style, in my opinion. If the POV character doesn't know many words, then it would be silly for that character to describe something (or see something) as 'diaphanous.' So simpler words might work better in that case.

    I would define 'grandiose' in this context as using a big word where a smaller, more ordinary word would work just as well. He perambulated down the street. What? How is that better than 'walked?' Or 'ambled.' Or 'strolled.'

    Dumbing down, as I define it, however, is deciding ahead of time that the READER isn't capable of picking up the connotation of an exact word like 'diaphanous,' so you have to use smaller, simpler words to get the concept across.

    If a writer uses the word diaphanous as part of a descriptive passage, I get an immediate feeling from it. It's certainly not a cold word. The garment is insubstantial, moves in an unseen breeze, and what it covers is slightly mysterious. The see-through quality hints at what lies underneath, but you can't see it clearly. You do want to, though.

    Once we start this DD process, it will inevitably result in our language becoming more restrictive and less descriptive. And probably a lot wordier as well. Instead of an exact word, you'll need to come up with all sorts of other words, all strung together, to get a concept across.

    Diaphanous is a good example of this. If you simply substituted thin, it could be any kind of thin cloth. It might not be see-through, and it might not be something that floats in a breeze. It might just be the kind of cotton you'd find in a man's work shirt.

    Or if you substituted see-through, it could be a piece of cling film or a piece of stiffened cloth that happens to be transparent, like a quilt lining. See-through is also not a very elegant term, while diaphanous adds a touch of class.

    Lightweight means it doesn't weigh much, but microfibre doesn't weigh much either, and it's usually very opaque.

    If you substitute billowy, that could be anything that will flap in a breeze ...including a heavy wool blanket on a clothesline (like I have going at the moment—long may Scotland's spell of dry weather hold.)

    The word that contains all these meanings is diaphanous—with the added notion of mystery.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2016
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  8. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Diaphanous is a fave word of mine, I don't think it harkens to grandiose (maybe a grand pair of hose)—I've only skimmed over the replies above so sorry for any repetition. Not revisited the definition either but I'm steered to thoughts a shade away from any perceived salaciousness in see-thru, a more elegant way of saying sheer, a less technical way of using translucent, and a single word that says wispy fabric.
     
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  9. Sasziza
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    Sasziza Member

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    Thanks to all for your kind advice. I think that I shall keep "diaphanous,", after all.
     
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  10. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Team effort @jannert ;)
     
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