Monday, December 5, 2011

Come again? Sometimes words work...even when they aren't credified.

Made up words. Slang. Colloquialisms. Words that should be...but aren't.

To seriously rile up by-the-book proofreaders, throw a few inventively descriptive words into a manuscript (or leave them in, if you're the content editor), and watch the red markups, comments and links to thefreedictionary or allwords fly.

There have certainly been times when I've hit upon a word in a manuscript I'm editing, snorted and diplomatically commented "Word choice?" or "Different word here?", all the while thinking to myself, "Nice try." But every once in a while, the word just fits, even if you can't find it anywhere but the Urban Dictionary...and sometimes not even there.

In a near-future book I recently edited, the author used the word "technofied" as an adjective a character used to mentally describe a gadget within his POV. I left it as such, since a) it was clear what was meant, and b) the character was thinking this in his head, so who am I to say he'd word it more properly in his head? He had already been established as lacking a certain polish, and it seemed to fit the characterization. Of course, the proofreader jumped all over that with a grammatically correct example of what it "should" be. (FYI, I added my own comment to the effect that it was the author's choice before passing it along.)

In another instance, an author had a character use the term "ass-hat" to describe someone. This, while slangy, seemed to me to be a perfectly reasonable term for a character to use. I've heard it many times IRL before (not directed at me thankfully! lol). However, another editor on the manuscript had never heard the term before. In that instance, should the author switch to a more familiar insult?

Readers aren't stupid--they don't need to be bashed over the head with the obvious, and they can certainly make out non-traditional words mean, ie the above two examples, continue to read along, accept the meaning in context, and not have it detract from their enjoyment of the book. But of course, that's my take and I'm just one person. I'm really interested to see what other readers think about this. :)

So my question to all of you is, will the use of a word that is either made up or not known by you pull you out of a story? Do you appreciate an author's creativity in not sticking with the same old words? Or do you find it distracting? For authors, do you occasionally throw something different out there, or is the dictionary your best friend?

PS: I have successfully applied to have a word added to the Urban Dictionary. So maybe it's just a question of taking the words you make up as an author and credifying them... Hmm... :D


  1. Doesn't bother me if the meaning is fairly obvious. Meaning it doesn't pull you out of a story with a WTF(?) moment.

  2. As someone who makes up words all the time... :)

  3. They'd never heard "asshat"? really? hmmm. I guess people swear more around here, lol

  4. I totally agree, Barb! :)

    You do have such a creative side, Chris! ;)

    LOL, Shawn...I know, right? I couldn't believe that either. Must be nice in their sheltered world... :D


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