Oh, My Word! (Sisters, Not Twins)
A couple weeks ago I took you on a journey through the Unicorn Forest, a trek undertaken by those seeking to publish a novel (http://www.lisaricardclaro.com/10-things-to-know-before-becoming-a-published-novelist/). One thing mentioned was the difference between the words writing and publishing. The words are sisters, but not twins, and that got me thinking of other words that are often used in a synonymous fashion when, in reality, they aren’t the same. Here are a few:
Motivation vs. Discipline: You may be motivated to lose weight but lack the discipline to stick to a diet and exercise program. You may be motivated to write a novel while lacking the discipline to sit in a chair and complete the work. Motivation feels good and will get you going, but it is discipline that keeps your nose to the grindstone and gets the job done. For my money, I’ll choose discipline over motivation every day of the week.
Love vs. Lust: This is a big one. Intellectually, we all know the difference, but because lust is often the precursor to love, people often paint these words with the same colors. They are different, though, no matter how often fiction rolls them into the same sleeping bag. In my novel, LOVE TO WIN, Brenna, the heroine, asks her brother Sean, a lawyer, for advice on this subject:
“So, is it the real deal? Or am I just . . .”
Brenna glared at him. “I’m serious, Sean.”
“So am I. It’s not always easy to separate love from lust. Why do you think so many people get married and divorced?”
I worked with a young lady once who was going through a divorce. There was no animosity between her and her ex, just resignation. “We thought we were in love,” she told me, “but we were only in lust. Turns out that isn’t enough.”
Religious vs. Spiritual: There are those who recite their church doctrines with ease but nary a prayer, and those who pray daily without ever attending a formal church service. And then there are those who embrace and meld the religious and the spiritual in wonderful ways. Some novels have characters that do a good job of showing all of this. PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett is the first that comes to my mind. Perhaps you know of others.
Ocean vs. Sea: Nope, these are not the same. The National Ocean Service explains, “Seas are smaller than oceans and are usually located where the land and ocean meet. Typically, seas are partially enclosed by land.” A gulf, such as the Gulf of Mexico, is a different matter altogether. It is a large body of water surrounded on three sides by land. While writing THE WRITE MAN, I had to be careful to never refer to the Gulf of Mexico as the sea or the ocean as neither is correct. Although it seems like a detail that most people would forgive, it isn’t. Proper reference is key to building a believable world, even in fiction. It isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary.
(Last year I edited a novel in which the author referenced a real Atlanta restaurant. She placed this restaurant at the ground level of a hotel when it is, in fact, a rotating restaurant located at the top of the hotel. Anyone familiar with the city would be hard pressed to find her world believable after a mistake like that one. Details do matter, even in fiction.)
Novel vs. Book: Color me—and probably you, too—guilty of misrepresenting this one at some point. In colloquial terms, people use these words as synonyms all the time. But from a strict definition standpoint, these are not always the same. For starters, a book can be fiction or nonfiction. A book can be comprised of a single story or of multiple stories. A novel, however, is a work of fiction—which is why saying “fictional” novel is redundant, because there is no other kind. Also, a novel is a work over 40,000 words. A word count of less is a novella or short story. So a novel may be a book, but a book might not be a novel. Will anyone notice if you get it wrong? Eh . . . probably not. 🙂
Wordsmithing is my gig, so I’m careful with word choices and how the meanings of words are shaded. I’m also certain I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I’ll see a familiar word used in an unfamiliar way and will dig into the definition only to find I’ve had it wrong. It sucks when that happens, but I’m also grateful, because it prevents further misuse. One word I misused for years was “moot.” I thought it meant “no longer an issue” or “no longer necessary.” Nope. It means debatable. Gak. I wonder how many times I screwed up before I figured it out?
What word(s) have you misused before learning the correct definition? Can you think of other word pairings that might be included on the above list? If you’re a writer, are you careful to check definitions and not just run with what’s listed in your thesaurus? And if you’re a reader, does it bother you when an author misuses a word, or do you gloss over it and keep on reading?
Hey, before I say goodbye, I’d like to leave you with an audio clip of LOVE TO WIN, soon to be released on Audible. Yet again, narrator Pam Dougherty has outdone herself. I’m so excited for this upcoming release! Let me know if you’d like an Audible promo code to download the audiobook when it’s ready. I’m happy to provide one in exchange for an honest review. In the meantime, have a listen:
Thanks for hanging with me. See you next week!
Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last, Love to Believe, or Love to Win in eBook or print just click the book cover on this blog’s sidebar. Autographed copies are available for purchase on my HOME page. 🙂 The audio versions of Love Built to Last and Love to Believe are available HERE now!