I’m a fan of dictionaries and especially thesauruses (thesauri, if you like): bilingual and multilingual, scientific and technical, colloquial and slang. I also love glossaries, encyclopedias, maps, almanacs, guidebooks, cookbooks—reference texts of all kinds. Calling on different lexicons can contribute to a desired texture. A specific referent or precise detail can lend authority. Changing one word in a sentence can alter not only the meaning of the sentence but the feeling of the sentence, the tone and the rhythm of the sentence—and in turn, those around it. Maybe a sentence longs for a shorter, plainer word, or a more polysemous word, or a word with a certain sound. Unlike the materials of many arts, language is fundamental to everyday life. We use words to communicate, and we often fall back on stock language. But writing that is vital requires a deeper engagement.
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