For months now, I have been reading all sorts of editing advice regarding fiction writing. I’ve already had a rant about the vilification of the perfectly good adverb. (My Adverb Rant) Going along with this is the admonition to “write simply.”
See, it begins like this. “Don’t use adverbs. Find a stronger word or adjective.”
Given the complexity of my own stories, the “stronger” word or adjective is either a) not an English word or b) not a common English word.
This conundrum leads into two literary linguistic conflicts in form. Do I simplify and use the adverb, or do I use the singular word that most fits what I am trying to relate to my reader?
Then to top everything off, I hear the lament about the dumbing down of America or the world. Oh, woe! Weez are falling behindz in de worldz because our education system is letting us downz!!1!!!
We are falling behind in the world because we are catering to stupidity. Oh, math is hard! Don’t worry, we don’t use it in the real world anyway. Just take arithmetic in college to pass. Man, English is stupid. When am I going to use any of these words? Don’t worry. Just learn up to an eighth grade level, because that’s the level we’re told to write towards. Why do I need to know science? It isn’t like I’m going to use it for anything.
Oh, and never mind home economics, art, music, industrial arts and anything that might get you inspired, teach you how to take care of your home, let you fix things around the house yourself, or whatever. Your parents can teach you that. If they’re not working and had learned how to do it write themselves to begin with. Those aren’t tested on the mandatory “exactly how much funding can we pull from schools that need help?” testing.
As a writer, it is our responsibility to use words. All the words. Not the twenty-three and a half everyone from idiot to genius has known since they were three years old. The longer words. The beautiful words. The ugly, the strange, the wonderful words. We learned the words we know by using them. If words go unused, then of course, people won’t know them because they are not being used. Not just using them in prose, but in our every day speaking, casually, professionally, everywhere. Not just spelling contests of obscurity.
I am not saying replace every word in a manuscript with something more complex, obscure, or whatever. But it is our responsibility to dust off some of those words and use them. Context can teach meaning, and those who care will not mind looking up a word here or there while they’re reading.
What good is it, after all, is having a word like lypophrenia (which is a noun meaning a vague feeling of sorrow or sadness seemingly without any apparent cause or source,) if it is never used, thus never known there is something that nails exactly how you’re feeling in a single word rather than some mind-bending conglomeration of words?
Also? I will happily, gleefully, unapologetically, willfully, and robustly use adverbs until such time as the more obscure words are not so obscure anymore. Just… maybe not quite as robustly as that.