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Published:June 23rd, 2009 14:12 EST
Advice For Writers: How To Use A Word Properly

Advice For Writers: How To Use A Word Properly

By Juliet Maruru

I have been saying this a little too often so I went off and found someone else to say it. Unfortunately, I could not find someone from home to say it but, oh well "

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.
Hart Crane, American Poet (1899-1932)

A professional writer does not just write words, he or she uses words as a tool, sometimes a weapon to achieve the purpose of communication, entertainment, enlightenment, and so on. This requires skill. To use a weapon comfortably one must be intimately acquainted with it.

Being able to recognize a gun as a gun is not quite enough. It helps to know how it works, how it feels in your hand, how much recoil it might give off, what size bullets it requires, and what velocity it would have. A marksman using a weapon he has never used before might have a little trouble hitting his target.

To know a word, to know its definition is not enough to help you be capable of working or playing with that word. To ever be able to know which word fits in where and why, you must have seen it several times, must have seen its synonyms, and antonyms, be intimately aware of its definition, understand the nuance behind every word.

So that is your assignment for this week. Don`t just use a word because it is long, and sounds sophisticated. Spend time acquainting yourself with it. Look for the dictionary meaning. See how it is used by other writers. Try pronouncing it; look out for how other people pronounce it. Look for other words that mean the same, and words that mean the opposite. Try it out in your sentence. If another word would serve your purpose better, use that word even if it is not as complicated as "acquiescence` when you mean infuriating passiveness.

Some of my favorite writers in Kenya right now; Clifford Oluoch, Stephen Mwangi, and Marvin Tumbo, Neema Yienya impress me by their ability to use simple common words to paint powerful word pictures. That is the mark of a professional writer, being able to play and work with words to evoke emotion, to infuriate, to raise to action, to create opinions, even when the writing is just meant to entertain. And yet, there is no room for acquiescence even when one has succeeded in finding their writing voice. One must constantly go into the practice range, acquaint themselves with new weapons, or toys if you will.

So, this week, we have on exhibit the art works of several writers. Please remember not only to rate on a scale of 1 to 10, but also to leave helpful comments that will help these writers get better and better.

From Oscar Nganga - Are you an African or an Africant?

The Obokano in the UK is a recollection of Grandmaster Masese`s trip to the UK and the Hay Festival in Wales.

Does life end or begin when you find out that you might be terminally ill? Chrispus Kimaru takes us into the mind of a character finding the answers to that question in The day I was born.

Is it possible to solve a problem by creating another problem? Ian Munga takes us into the world of Anti Mungiki Vigilantes.

Do you get the feeling that Iran might just be better than Kenya as far as the various Human and Civil Rights go? Marvin Tumbo has something to say about that in Where is my Vote?

The financial recession is hitting hard, and sometimes it is nice to dream of Christmas early. Neema Yienya puts a face to the persons who sometimes win promotional raffles in And a Happy New Year!

Still within the recession, we end the week`s reading with a romantic tale of a Mannequin from Simon Mukali.

Here`s wishing you fun reading and a great week ahead! Please remember, all stories published on the Storymoja Blog will be eligible for the Crown of Story of the Week. The stories will be posted every Monday. Readers are encouraged to both critique and vote for the story they believe should wear the crown. At the end of the week, the votes will be tallied and the story with the most votes will posted on the Storymoja Website as the Story of the Week on the Friday of the same week. To have your story in this weekly process please send it to blogs@storymojaafrica.co.ke before Friday at 4pm.