My last "Avoids" blog was quite some time ago, and I felt a need to clarify a few more items. Remember, no hard and fast rules exist for these, but our sources do urge us to beware. The experts I most often use are Strunk and White, Speechmastery.com, and my all-time favorite, Elmore Leonard.
AVOID FOREIGN LANGUAGES: Best advice--write in English. That is, if your first language is English and you live in an country in which English is dominant, then stick to what everyone knows. If--in a desire to show off--you throw in foreign words or expressions with abandonment, you will only succeed in annoying your readers. And we simply must not annoy our readers. (No further explanation is needed about that.) However, remember: rarely will you find a definite rule for this, so by all means use a foreign word or phrase if it is fitting for your story.
AVOID MELODRAMATIC WORDS: Beauteous, prodigious, inchoate, fulsome, austerity. Now, there's simply nothing wrong with these words, but how many in your audience can immediately recall the definitions? How many of your readers will stumble over the word, which makes him stop reading? Trust me, you do not want your reader to stop because of something he cannot understand. Most all adults, though, can understand, beautiful, enormous, incomplete, flattering, or severe.
As more than one expert has said: "Don't use a ten dollar word when a ten cent word will do." Oops, I think I just used a metaphor--or at least, one of the below.
AVOID METAPHORS AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Idioms, colloquialisms, metaphors, aphorism, metaphors, simile, hyperbole, and personification. All these words can be categorized under a more familiar term: Figures of Speech. Lest you think I know the meanings and uses of all these, think again. I certainly do not. However, I can detect one in a text, although I couldn't correctly categorize it. All I know is if I read, "Quick as greased lightning," or "Hanky panky," or "Reading him the riot act," or "The apple of his eye," I will usually shudder slightly but continue to read.
Yes, I know I'm guilty. In one book I wrote, "All hell broke loose." Well...it did, and those are the only words I could write.
1. Why, then are there so many versions of one word? Maybe because the one that is used the most is the familiar one. I suppose if we'd begun to use "inchoate," then we wouldn't understand the word "incomplete."
2. What's wrong with using a few foreign words here and there? Nothing, except the reason I gave--your reader may stumble over the word. We want our words to flow and move easily, not slow down to a crawl, as the reader wonders about their meaning.
3. When is it more appropriate to use figures of speech?
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas