Finding the right words can be difficult. Make it easier by keeping the right company. Surround yourself by people who love words. Look out for:
People who don’t waste words. These people don’t talk about ‘the incredible journey’ and ‘great place they’re at right now’ because they aren’t filling hours of reality TV. They talk honestly and openly when they have something to say and the rest of the time they shut up. It’s worth waiting for their considered contribution; you may learn a thing or two. If I ruled the world every person would be born with an allocation of words. ‘Use your words wisely or lose them’ would be my mantra. And don’t come crying to me (silently) when you run out.
People who know the meaning. They use words in the right place, at the right time.
Imagine this scenario:
PARENT: What did you do at school today?
NINE-YEAR-OLD-ME: We put tiles all over the floor and I got extra marks for making my pattern tessellate.
PARENT: Tessellate? I don’t think that’s right. Go and help your sister to set the table….
The teacher at my primary school had introduced us to maths and patterns via tessellation (here’s a modern lesson plan http://www.teachervision.fen.com/math/lesson-plan/3522.html if you want to inflict it yourself on a couple of innocent children).
Along with staying up past Coronation Street and baked beans my parents dismissed such fancy notions as to tessellate (Tessellate (vb): to fit together exactly; to construct, pave, or inlay with a mosaic of small tiles).
After years in the wilderness where I passed the time by creating mosaics, Alt J has championed my cause. ‘Let’s tessellate’ they suggest, using this lovely word in the right context, at the right time.
People who encourage others. They are happy to look over your rough draft, give constructive criticism and will resist the temptation, no matter how great, to rewrite it for you. Pay attention, don’t abuse their kindness and as my mum would hiss from a waiting car, as I blithely swept past the host of the birthday party, always say thank you.
People who use simple language. We’re talking plain English. Avoid those who are ‘going forward’ with ‘under-capacitated’ policies. That’s most of the public sector. There will be some ‘disbenefits’ which means you may wish to make an exception for hospitals in the case of emergencies.
People who are open about their experience. Around the time of the tessellation incident the same long-suffering teacher corrected one of my stories with the ‘good attempt, but not so many commas next time’ comment. Because I didn’t understand commas I had, to be on the safe side, inserted them between every single word figuring that at least one would be in the right place. Whilst I can now wield commas with the best of them, I was blithely unaware until today that ‘alright’ is not a word – it should be ‘all right’. So there you go, still making mistakes, still learning. All right?