Writers, Be Specific in Word Choice

A Short Exercise

By Annette Rey

Make your sentences more interesting by choosing defining words. Detail particular traits. Specificity is better than vagueness.


The car careened down the mountain pass.

The battered Volvo careened down the rocky mountain pass.


The house was surrounded by woods.

Becky’s cozy, vine-covered cottage, nestled among old-growth firs, welcomed the returning airman.


Dogs chased the rabbit to ground.

The cottontail narrowly eluded a pack of howling beagles by dashing into her burrow.


Three rowdy beagles relentlessly pursued a zig-zagging cottontail and lost her in the thick underbrush.

Replace a general word with an unambiguous one.


Generic term                 Explicit replacement

restaurant                     Italian eatery, greasy-spoon diner

dog                                 blue-eyed Malamute, formidable Doberman

building                         glass skyscraper, L-shaped ranch house, Celtic castle

library                          personal leather-bound collection, tattered paperbacks

detective                       veteran sergeant, cynical sleuth

You can see the benefit of replacing bland words with descriptive terms that beef up your sentences and put your readers in the mood you want to immerse them.

Now, you try a few words. Visualize the noun. Make those simple nouns more complex, reflect the characteristics of the item in question.








jewelry box


The next time you sit down to write, remind yourself to elaborate on the general words you use in a sentence. Your readers will be more entertained and satisfied with your writing style.













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