Word Choices


One of my main distractions in writing used to be my obsession with finding just the right word. I’d stop mid-sentence, wracking my brain for the exact meaning I wanted, finally giving up on the whole piece when I couldn’t get there.

Eventually, I figured out how to get past my “block.”

Step One: Write down a “good enough” word
Step Two: Circle or highlight the word
Step Three: Finish the draft
Step Four: Get out a thesaurus and a dictionary
Step Five: Find the right word

Since my 52 Weeks of Creativity prompt this week is How It’s Made, here’s a slightly dramatized version of how I might do steps Four & Five:

“I lifted the heavy bag to my shoulder…”

It’s not a strong sentence, is it?

So I head over to my thesaurus and look up lift.

boost, climb, pick up, raise, hoist … interesting, where does hoist lead?

raise, pick up, elevate, heave … where will heave take me?

haul, heft, hurl … I like the sounds of these three words, so I check with my dictionary for their meanings.

Haul, v. to pull or drag
Heft, v. to heave or hoist
Hurl, v. to throw or fling

Well, hurl is definitely out of the running. Since the bag is heavy, flinging it seems unlikely.

Haul is almost right, but it feels like a continuous act instead of a single motion.

That leaves me with heft. I like this: it shows the weight of the bag and the effort required to move it.

“I hefted the bag to my shoulder … ” 

Yes, this feels right. I can cut the adjective, which makes the whole sentence stronger.


N.B. If you use a thesaurus, always use a dictionary too!

2 thoughts on “Word Choices

  1. Jen Seriously says:

    I have yet to master the technique of “just keep writing.” I know I should, but I always get caught up in finding exactly the right word or looking up a fact online. It’s terrible.

    • maggiemcg says:

      It’s so hard to stick to! I get distracted like crazy, that’s one of the reasons I’ve started writing first drafts long hand.

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