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“What is your favorite word?”

That question came in the mail recently from an editor compiling a book in which various authors would name their favorite word and explain their reasons.

“I don’t have a favorite word like williwaw that I keep in a display case to moon over,” I wrote back. “Those words please me when I see (and hear) them, but unless they fill a precise need–oscillate, lapidary, filigree–I abstain, fearful of being sucked into the bog of academic prose where monsters like adumbrate and ineluctable lurk.”

My favorites are the hundreds of vivid replacements for words that are just too dull–too humdrum–to make writing come alive. Brazen, used instead of bold, not only catches the reader off guard with the fanciful z; its sound exactly conveys its meaning. A brazen scheme is more than merely bold; listen and you’ll hear a mountebank.

I write by ear, and sound is what leads me to what I’m rummaging for.

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Re-posted with permission.

Image: Electric by Eileen Shahbazian.

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