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Words – Software For The Brain



By:  Sandra Elzie


Someone recently sent me this cartoon and I had to laugh. It’s not what you have to say, it’s how you say it. You have to consider your audience and then write using words they can understand.


When I used to teach classes for the State of California or the American Red Cross, I geared my terminology to whether I was talking to a classroom of lawyers or a classroom of moms and dads who just wanted to know how to do CPR in case of an emergency.


I got to thinking that there are times that we use this particular skill when writing. For instance, if your character is a lawyer, you might have him/her use an occasional “ten-dollar” word where you’d never expect your small town or country housewife to use “hifalutin” terms.

So, when we write, you must consider the educational level of your character or their experiences.  Then you also have to consider your audience. Is it a YA book? It will contain much more relaxed terminology.


Have you ever read a book where the words used didn’t “fit” right? I recently judged a contest entry that had a few blunders in this area. And, of course, there’s also the case where someone uses a modern-day cliché in a historical novel. Ever seen that?


Bottom line is that we must stay true to our characters and our time in history. If we don’t, the readers will notice and not in a good way. Share some of the blunders you’ve noticed in books.


Note: You might want to leave off the titles and author’s names since we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Thanks much!!





Sandra Elzie, awa Sandra McGregor, was challenged by her husband years ago to write the books she continually said she’d write once she’d retired.  Never one to walk away from a challenge, she wrote the books and was first published in 2008.  She has since gone on to have thirteen books out in print with more planned over the next few months.  Sandra lives in the deep south with her husband of several decades and Jack the Wonder Cat.

You can connect with Sandra on her blog, Life, Love and A Good Book where she’s currently running a promotional for her newly released book, Katie, or on her web page.

Her books can be purchased on Amazon.

Happy Reading !!


Marilyn Baron - September 1, 2014 - 1:52 am

Great post. I have seen examples of what you’re referring to, but offhand can’t recall them specifically.

sandra Elzie - September 1, 2014 - 2:04 am

First, I must say that you and I are both night owls. It’s almost 2 am and I’m still up. (What’s with this???!!)

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. BTW, you’re the winner of the Jeweled Flash Drive on my blog…Life, Love and A Good Book.

I’ll get it to you soon. Hope you drop by and leave a comment for the new release…Katie – Book 3 of the GA Heart series.

Marilyn Baron - September 1, 2014 - 6:51 am

Yay, Sandy. I’m so glad I won. Thank you. I will stop by your blog to leave a comment, I saw the flash drive at the last GRW meeting. You can get it to me at the next GRW meeting or M&M.

Maxine Davis - September 1, 2014 - 9:22 am

Sandy, I enjoyed your post. I saw that cartoon, and being a fomer teacher, loved it. Yes, I have seen mistakes – don’t recall the books, but it always jerked me out of my reading-world and it interrupted the book.

Sia Huff - September 1, 2014 - 1:28 pm

Hi Sandy, Love the cartoon. You’re right, using the wrong word can causes issues. I don’t recall any in books. But recently, Downton Abbey released a picture that had a diet coke on the mantle. Oops.

Sandy Elzie - September 1, 2014 - 4:03 pm

Hi Maxine,
Yes, I know what you mean about jerking you out of a story. I once read a story that told about the hero driving out of Sacramento, CA on “P” street…but “P” street is one-way only…heading INTO town. Jerked me right out of the book.

Sandy Elzie - September 1, 2014 - 4:05 pm

Hi Sia,
Whoops! Well, it could have been worse…it could have been a diet Pepsi. (okay, so my loyality to the Atlanta-based Coke company is showing)

My hubs loves to catch bloopers in movies where the hair is different, or something is different in the room from one scene to the next. We don’t look for them, but sometimes they glare right out of the TV…or off the page.

Walt Mussell - September 1, 2014 - 5:18 pm

One of the biggest blunders I think I’ve ever seen came from an author whose work I think is great and whose books I still buy. (Absolutely wonderful writing.) Had it been her first book, I think I wouldn’t have purchased anything afterwards. Because it was her fourth or fifth book, I let it slide. (A character in a book set prior to the Depression made a Sir Edmund Hillary scaling Everest reference.

As for me, I’ve had a few historical slips occur in contests. One judge of my work said that she expected characters to use more contractions and it seemed stilted without it, but that otherwise my characters were too informal.

Sandy Elzie - September 2, 2014 - 6:25 am

Hi Walt,
Did the judge know the country and time of your book? As a judge on contests in the past, I’m a bit hesitant to comment unless I’m very educated in the particular historical time & place.

Walt Mussell - September 2, 2014 - 10:22 am

Sandy, I don’t know if the judge knew. The overall comments made by the judge, however, were excellent and I agree with what she said. It was a new era for me (the WIP) and it was my first contest with it. I usually take comments like this to mean that I did not do a good enough job as a writer in bringing the reader into my story.

I learned the above reasoning based on my first contest with my first Japan WIP. A judge commented that my book wasn’t anything like “The Last Samurai.” While the first thing that went through my mind was that my book was about three centuries earlier, I still took it as me not being able to push the reader from “The Last Samurai” to “Shogun.”

Piper - September 2, 2014 - 1:27 pm

Since a number of my characters don’t speak in what people might consider to be “proper” English, I’ve had people comment on their speech before. But if I didn’t have them speaking that way, just after the Civil War people would have something to say about that. My hero’s language will change because of his continued exposure to the heroine, who does speak in a reflection of “proper” English (I hate that term) and I hope folks will get that. Thanks for the great post, Sandy.

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