I’m sitting in the garden in glorious sunshine writing the first of Pauline’s Musings. It’s quite incredible thinking that here we are still in winter, yet I’m sat in the garden in a t-shirt. The sun is shining and there’s nary a cloud in sight.
Now there’s an interesting, some might so old-fashioned, word. It was first recorded in 1740-50 and a variant of ne’er a never, so in my context there isn’t a cloud in sight.
I love words. I don’t always use them properly or necessarily know their true definition. If I don’t I just look them up which brings me to another thought.
"But the more I thought about it the more it felt like I was selling readers short."
One of my friends was giving my latest scribblings the once over and queried my use of detritus and whether I should use it in my book. They wondered if anyone would know what it meant. At first, I thought I should substitute it with debris. But the more I thought about it the more it felt like I was selling readers short. I didn’t want to dumb down the story or change my writing voice in case some might not know the meaning of a word. We have a fantastic resource in the internet where there are number of on-line dictionaries listing the definitions of thousands of words. According to the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1989, there are full definitions for 171,476 words in current use and 47,156 obsolete words. We can go to libraries where the librarians are only too happy to help with research in to the meanings of words. And, of course, some homes still have dictionaries on their book shelves.
So, my question is this, should we dumb down our writing to make it easier on the reader? My answer is, no we shouldn’t. By the same token a reader shouldn’t have to keep a dictionary to hand to a read a book. But using the wonderful English language and all its words should be encouraged. If we don’t, then they can easily get lost and join the ranks of the many obsolete words. The English language evolves around every ten years, which is good as I’m sure we wouldn’t want to be speaking Chaucerian English! With the advent of text-speak things become even more muddled with people not being able to differentiate between what’s acceptable in a text and how that differs with what’s acceptable in a letter or essay etc.
"So, my question is this, should we dumb down our writing to make it easier on the reader?"
I will continue to use words to the best of my ability and in the context of what I’m writing. I may not always succeed, but it won’t be for the want of trying. I won’t use them just to show how clever or well-read I am.