Monday, April 25

Should I Apologize For My Vocabulary?

From the title of this post, you might think I'm going to talk about swearing, or graphic sex in books. Nope. Something much more wholesome and edified. I want to know if I should apologize for my everyday vocabulary.

Recently, a critique partner lambasted me for using "$10 words instead of $0.50 words". I was told to get rid of all the long, fancy words. And my hackles immediately rose.

I don't speak - or write - like a walking encyclopedia. I use contractions, slang, you name it. In other words, I'm fairly certain I sound normal. The editors who published my two books certainly never complained. And in this particular case, the two words that set her off were 'loquacious' and 'capricious'. Yes, I was trying to indicate a higher level of education for the speaker than might be readily apparent to the other characters. So far, I have exactly two of these big-ticket words in my 61,000 and growing words.

So here's my question - do I need to dumb it down? Doesn't that insult the reading public as a whole? After all, it isn't as if I'm using obsolete words like icasm or scaevity. (Both wonderful, almost obsolete words - go to to learn more). The definition of both the offending words is readily apparent in the context. They are both words with which any graduating high school senior should be familiar. Frankly, I feel that if they don't know what they are, it is about time they opened a dictionary and learned! But, I could be wrong. Let me know what you think?


  1. funny post, Christi...i hope you meant it that way! I've been accused of using too-big or too-country or too-something words in the past. Usually I ignore those comments because I like different words. I don't use them to make anyone feel dumb, but because they seem to fit my characters. Keep doin' what you're doin', I say. :)

  2. And I say what Kristi said. Someone's not going to like it no matter what you do!

  3. I think one of the best things about reading is that we learn new words through the context of the story. As long as the words are ones your characters would use, and fit the tone of your story,use what you think works. You know your story best. Sounds like you picked those words for a reason and they need to stay. Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic. :)

  4. I agree. If it fits the character to use those words, then use them. The first full-length novel I ever wrote had a street-wise character who used the "f" word, something I never did at the time. But it would've felt false if he'd said something milder.

    Go with your character and your gut.

  5. Hi Christi--

    Is that a big vocabulary in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

    Our characters must speak and act differently from one another, otherwise they become one amorphous blob of talking heads. I like to hear, use, type out different words and say (for instance), "Would Izzy say that?" She has PhD, but comes from a street savvy crime family. Her vocabulary changes with her audience. We do the same thing in our daily life.

    So, stick with your gut and stay in character!

    Hasta chica!