April is National Poetry Month.
Today I celebrate beautiful words.
Regardless of tastes, preferences or trends, I believe the beautiful calls to us.
There is something inside of us that longs for symmetry, for rhythm, for thoughtful curves. Often we can appreciate delicate images that spurn our emotions, that bring out in us the good and noble. We all enjoy art for a variety of reasons, but no one can deny how well-crafted art serves a purpose. Art can point us to the good in humanity, echoing ancient truths. Beautiful art feeds our souls.
As we write, we can organize our words in such a way that their patterns, their meaning, their rhythm, their structure, and their message all sing together. Beautiful words, in prose, cannot be accidents. Finely crafted words come with discipline and practice. Lovely sentences do not lay on the page passively waiting for an optic nerve to come by and give them life. Beautiful sentences dance — they vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. These words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together.
Beautiful words point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum. They can inflame anger. The right words can render jealously hotter. They can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. Beautiful words can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. At their best, they are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Delicious words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian.
Famous Poetic Words. The 50 Most Quotes Lines of Poetry. Here’s another one I just want to sit and savor.
Beautiful sentences dance. They vary in their length, in their structure, in the vivacity of their verbs and in the nuances of their nouns. Beautiful words paint a picture — they don’t slap it together. They can point to the strongest emotions on the human spectrum, inflaming anger, rendering jealously hotter. Beautiful words can pour out pain like a trickle or an avalanche. They can sum up joy, can skip and staccato with each laugh and giggle. They are are for Hallmark cards and tweets, fortune cookies and voicemails. Beautiful words are for poets and teenagers, novelists and children, literati and pedestrian. Words pair together like friends to create a private party of emotion and delight.
Beautiful words play dress up when they are a metaphor, simile or allegory. They toy with their meaning, putting on a disguise, like a fake mustache or a floppy hat to be to the reader something they’re not. Oh, coy words tease and taunt the meanings and the similarities and the comparisons and the reader watches the burlesque stimulated to read more.
Buzzfeed’s Beautiful Words: 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences in literature. I found them very inspiring.
Beautiful words hide meaning like a treasure, daring the reader to look for clues to the mystery. Beautiful words leave ellipses like bread crumbs that tempt the reader to go deeper into the woods. Is the reader escaping the real world or rushing to danger? Beautiful words will never tell, they’ll just keep looking behind them as they run over limb and log to keep the chase going.
Beautiful words march together in alliteration. Bearing the beat together as brothers in a band, blaring their business to any reader who claps along in the parade. Beautiful words are not democratic. Some words get the short end of the stick. They are the low feeders in the phonetic and etymological gene pool. Those words are edited and beaten and mocked and their superior sisters are given chances to go to the ball.
Untranslatable Words. This is a beautiful collection of words from other cultures that can’t be translated into English. I love the illustrations and I also like thinking of the imagination that came up for the need for these words. I also want to put them in my every day use right now. And then I found the same list even MORE beautifully illustrated!
Beautiful words are parts of a whole. The vowels and consonants are like toddlers in a playground, picking their favorites for the swings or the ball game, holding hands or playing tag. Poor silent E can’t object. Insecure Q can’t go anywhere without U. Lonely Z finds himself picked last for the game. Bossy A tells them all to line up.The words are acrobats, flipping and flying in their palindromes and anagrams. The suffixes and prefixes fly like lost feathers as up they go to the highest of heights.
The Last Words. Huffington Post has a list of the most beautiful last lines in literature that “will make you want to read the whole book.” (Hey kids! Who wants to go to the library with me today?)
The beautiful words are our medium. They are crisp and wide like a crayon or pastel. Precise like a fine pen. Bold like charcoal and pool in the crevasses of meaning like a dab of watercolor. The words are gold and crimson and emerald and cobalt. Rich with facets and karats and sparkle. They dazzle and enchant and when they are put together like beads on a chain, we can wear them around our neck like jewels.
How can you make your words more beautiful?
1. Eliminate the adverbs and adjectives. Stick in a metaphor if you want the reader to appreciate the nuances and features of the noun. Or pick a better noun.
2. Read it out loud. Listen for rhythms and cadence. Add in phrases or clauses to slow things down, add description or amp up emotion.
3. Don’t let sentences start with “There was” or “There were.”
4. Rearrange where the verb and noun are in the sentence but don’t make it passive.
5. Add an element of emotion, especially in the verb choice you make.
6. Use Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latin words. Don’t know the difference? Check out this excellent blog post that explains the difference!
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling
7. Substitute any “be” verb for a verb that’s specific and vivacious. You know you’ve got a good one when you can see exactly what is happening.
8. Substitute every word for a synonym to see what you come up with. But don’t get fancy. Big, multi-syllable words may muddy your meaning.
9. Combine two short sentences or separate a long sentence into shorter ones. Sentences should be varying lengths. This is a bit hard to read, but you can get the point.
10. Look for weak modifiers like “very” or “some”. If a word in a sentence doesn’t have a precise purpose, take it out. In fact, read the sentence the omit the first word. Read it again omitting the second, then the third. If you don’t miss the word, or the meaning is unchanged, omit the word altogether. In this point, I can safely omit the words, “weak”, “precise”, “in fact”, and “altogether.” See?
Beautiful words are our medium. We have control over them. We have them lined up in little drawers of our mind and dig through our thesaurus if we can’t find the right one. If we are good at what we do, they are chosen with care and precision. They are picked gingerly from the box and pressed into place with our fingertips. There they do not rest. They are to be re-read and deleted, edited and proofread, taken out and put back in.
I am thankful that I have such a glorious, magnificent, illogical, sometimes unwieldy medium in which to practice my art.
Sometimes I make the words more beautiful.
Sometimes they make me.
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