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Alphabet blogging: C is for…


No, wait, that’s not it.


No! Stop it. You do not need a snack.

That’s the exact conversation I had with myself as I sat down to start this blog post. I couldn’t believe it. My brain had suddenly gone blank, and I couldn’t think of a single word that started with C and had to do with writing.

So I flipped open my dictionary and found…

Cromlech. That was the first word my eyes landed on.

“What in the world is a cromlech?” I muttered. Apparently it’s a circle of prehistoric stones. Stonehenge. What in the world could this have to do with a blog post about writing? Then my brain went off on a rabbit trail, and because it kind of makes sense and sticks to the topic, I thought I’d just go ahead and write out the rabbit trail.

My brain retains random trivia and useless bits of knowledge, and I really, really like trying out new words, even if I don’t always know how to pronounce them correctly. I attribute that to reading the dictionary for fun when I was a kid.

I love sprinkling little-known words into my writing. I try hard to limit it–maybe one or two words per story, depending on how long it is. And I know I have favorites that pop up over and over–for example, I can think of three or four stories off the top of my head that I’ve used the word chiaroscuro in. I adore that word and have ever since I read The Tale of Despereaux. There are others, but that’s the only one coming to mind right now. (I know, I’m sorry. I’m writing this on 5 and a half hours of sleep and plenty of caffeine… 🙂 )

It’s always hard to know what to do with those words, though. I’ve had a gamut of responses, from someone being excited that I used a lovely, little-known word, to someone else saying “I don’t like having to look up words I don’t know in the middle of a story.” I always loved (and still love) looking up a cool-sounding word, which is why I like reading on my kindle as much as I do–instant access to a dictionary.

So as a writer, I waver between including those words and excluding them in favor of simpler words. But sometimes the simple, everyday words can’t get the job done–you need that different word, or even that word in another language, to full express what everyday English can’t.

How do you go about choosing which words to include and exclude in your own writing?


About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

One comment on “Alphabet blogging: C is for…

  1. I love obscure words, but sometimes you have to choose the less obscure word to be understood. “Cromlech” is one of those that should probably be “stone circle,” unless you were writing an archeology journal article where the audience is likely to no the word.

    But in a novel, where we have the luxury of time, we could use both, and thereby teach the reader a new word. 🙂

    Chiaroscuro is one that just can’t be substituted. It’s too specific.

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