Writer Rant: I’m Judging Your Vocabulary Right Now
Welcome to Writer Rants–where every Friday a writer just lets loose on whatever the heck is bugging her this week. Enjoy.
Long before words were my living I had plenty to spare. Frankly, my family and friends are thrilled that for the last few years I have had an outlet for all those words, rather than just nattering on all the time. Now that I write full time, the amount and variety of words I use on a daily basis probably isn’t in the same realm as the people I encounter. I’ve fallen prey to a common professional hazard of writing; I’m constantly judging people based on their vocabulary, or the lack thereof.
I recently went to my bank to set up a new IRA. In true writer style, I did my research well and was near certain that I knew exactly what I needed. Still, I wanted a professional opinion. The banker sat down across from me all decked out in a suit and tie with slicked back hair. So far, so good. He explained to me, with absolute confidence, that Roth IRAs are “awesome sauce” whereas traditional IRAs are “cool beans.” Umm… what? Clearly this “banker” could not be trusted. I skedaddled and found an actual professional to help me out.
Fast-forward a bit to a party with a bunch of my friends. Jamie, who isn’t a wine-drinker but was interested in trying it, was chatting to Paul*, a wine connoisseur. Paul was blabbering about the differences between Sangiovese and Tempranillo like an actual sommelier. I was mentally swapping “varietal” for “kind” and “vintage” for “year,” and thinking a bunch of other words like “pompous,” when I noticed that Jamie had a vice grip on her bottle of hard cider and a wild-eyed look. I vowed to pour the woman a glass of something sweet and bubbly as soon as I helped her escape.
The thing is, I love wine. Heck, I make wine. So, I know the lingo. But, just like I expected the “banker” to use his fully grown-up finance vocabulary, I expect my friends to use casual, approachable words. Instead this dude was seizing his chance to trot out all kinds of jargon to impress people that were already his friends. But, he was doing the exact opposite.
Everyday I put on high heels because I like to look taller. I put on makeup and lipstick because, after long nights of writing, I need it to look awake, or possibly even human. Maybe it shouldn’t, but the way you present yourself makes an impression. It’s the same thing with words. Just like a professional writer needs to be able to switch tones and styles easily based on the assignment, people need to judge situations and use the right words for the occasion. Maybe that’s wrong, and maybe it’s an occupational hazard of writing, but consider this fair warning. I’m judging you based on your vocabulary right now.
* I considered changing names to protect the not-so-innocent, but then I decided, ehh, why bother.
Michelle S is a freelance writer focusing on blog posts, web content and product descriptions for a wide range of industries. She thinks writing is a terrific way to buy new shoes, lipstick and plane tickets.