I’m an English major and a writer, which means there’s a notebook on a dusty bookshelf in the attic of my brain that is set aside for fun words. It also means I just wrote a long sentence instead of saying “I collect words.” We’ll delve into that compulsion in a future post.
I was listening to an online session yesterday and one of the presenters used an interesting word I hadn’t heard before. She used it twice, before finally defining it for us with an apology that she had to look it up, too.
What is the word? I couldn’t tell, which meant it was complex, rather difficult to say, esoteric, and oh so tantalizing.
In her context, it meant temporarily joining another team at work to complete a project. She still technically worked for the same manager, but all her duties were tied to this second team.
Since I love words (did I establish that?) and since I couldn’t spell it to write it down, I thought to Google it by the definition this morning.
Easier said than done.
Part of my office job involves search marketing, so I expected I could figure it out. Let’s start with a simple Google search:
- word meaning on loan
Let’s add a bit more description:
- word meaning on loan to another job
Let’s follow my trusty writer’s adage. “When in doubt, rewrite”:
- employee working for another department
Tighten the search:
- employee working for another department temporarily
- word meaning temporary job change
- working for another department
OK, tighten it up a bit:
- working for another department on loan
JUST WRITE OUT A LONGER STRING!
- goes to another department to temporarily work for them
In every case, Google picked up on words, not the context of the search. My results included temp jobs, loans, and information about employees changing careers. These failures might be interesting for digital marketers and those interested in voice search (e.g. Alexa, Siri), but why is this topic on a writing blog?
Glad you asked.
- Humans are not dissimilar in this regard. We pick up certain words in sentences and our brains unconsciously apply our knowledge, our emotions, and our bias upon the meaning that we understand. It’s something I keep in mind when editing. #ForestForTheTrees
- There’s practically a word for everything, but that doesn’t mean we should always use it. As much as I loved this word (which I have yet to find!), it requires a definition for most of us to understand. This isn’t a criticism of the speaker, but rather a suggestion for your editing process. If you have to define it for your audience, perhaps you need a different word. See “petrichor” here – you’ll love it, but you’ll never use it.
- There are many ways to convey information, or in this case, try to convey. We’re not always the clearest on our first attempt. Or in this case, after eight attempts. When in doubt, rewrite.
- Categorize this into “writing pitfalls”. I sat down to edit my book and spent 20 minutes searching and 45 minutes writing this post. #naughtywriter
Readers can’t get into the writer’s brain unless we open the door a crack for them. In most cases, I know what I mean when I read what I wrote <snicker>. That doesn’t mean my reader does. In everything I write, I try to keep that in mind.
Good luck with your writing!
PS: I promise to write a post when I re-discover this word.
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© Michael Wallevand, September 2019