“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.”
Nearly everyone, Christian or non-Christian, recognizes those familiar words to the beautiful old hymn. But in a time and culture that cheapens words by overuse, does the impact of the lyrics escape us? When everything from hamburgers to a pair of new shoes to the weather are described as “amazing,” how much amazement does that leave for God’s grace?
As a writer, I ask myself that question often; as a result, I have learned to pick and choose my words carefully. True, if I’m writing dialogue between people who would naturally speak in popular trends, I will probably include more usage of terms like “amazing,” “cool,” or “awesome,” despite the fact that the subject matter may not warrant it. But in the primary body and narrative of my piece, I need to be more discriminating.
At one of the very first writers’ conferences I ever attended (WAY back in the Dark Ages!), I remember one of the instructors saying, “A good writer takes the time to find the right word; a great writer takes a little longer and finds the perfect word.” I’ve never forgotten that, though on occasion I’ve become lazy and not practiced it. My work suffered as a result.
As readers, even if you don’t always pick up on such over-usage and watering-down of common words, something tells me you’ve been irritated or bored when you came across it. Is it possible you gave a book a less than favorable rating–worse yet, didn’t even finish reading it–for that very reason? Perhaps you didn’t recognize or identify why you were disappointed, but thinking back now, can you remember such an experience? Usually it happens with a story that had great potential and really should have carried you along on a page-turning adventure; instead it left you with a ho-hum feeling that fueled your already accurate perception that there are simply too many good books out there to waste your time on the not-so-good ones.
Whether you’re a writer or a reader–or both–what are some of the overused terms that bother you most? I’d love to compile a list of such terms, along with alternative and more creative, colorful terms–sort of like our own Thesaurus. As fellow lovers of words, can you help me out here? Let’s see how creative a list we can compile.
Something tells me it will be…well, amazing.