I just spent a fabulous weekend at a writer’s conference, The Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association’s conference in Seattle Washington and thought I would write a few posts about the weekend. The weekend was busy, noisy, and quite an adventure. I haven’t been to a writer’s conference in years, since the last one I attended I helped get agents and authors to another conference. This time I was on the other side of the fence, meeting new friends, pitching a finished project to agents and going to various lectures.
At one of the lectures, the agents expressed depression and frank dismay at the current trend to write down to the reader. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. There was an article published recently where the author advocated not using big words. In other words- dumbing down the writing- as readers don’t like to come across words they don’t know. I find that incredulous and insulting to say the least.
When I was young, I was a voracious reader and often came across words that I didn’t know. I tried to take a short cut and went to my father for help. His response? Look it up in the dictionary. For my tenth Christmas present, he gave me an illustrated copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, which I still own. I resented that as a child. Why, I would protest, if you know what the word is; you won’t tell me! I would stomp off, but I would open the dictionary, look up the word, learn the word, and retain it, or it slipped away.
I do not believe for one second that readers want to be treated as morons incapable of looking up a new word, or even the sheer arrogance of assuming readers can’t read big words.
I echo the agent’s dismay. Part of the glory of reading is how a writer uses the language and how if one word is better than another, and my God, if it is a big word, use it! It will enrich the writing. It will enhance the experience of reading.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one! More posts to come from the writer’s conference including my pitch session or how I got grew hair in just a three-minute pitch session!