At a book festival a couple of years ago, a fellow writer picked up one of my books and commented, “I don’t know how you fiction writers do it…so many words!” Keith, you see, is a poet.
“Yes, we write thousands of words,” I replied, “but I think your job – writing poetry – is the more difficult. Every single word you write must be golden.”
Effective poetry packs an emotional wallop into a handful of well-chosen, million-dollar words. Words are chosen not only for their meanings, but also for their sounds and rhythms. Every sound, every syllable, every association, everything about every single word matters. Powerful poets are ninjas of the literary world.
Prose writers, on the other hand, must battle a tendency to become sloppy. A target word count of 70,000 (instead of 20) provides so much wiggle room that we grow lax about precision of language.
Reading other writers on writing helps rein in the sloppiness. Whether you are working on a poem, a novel, or a research paper for high school, GrammarCheck offers advice about weak words every writer should avoid: