Have Fun Playing with Unusual Words in Your Writing

I seldom avoid using a word in my writing just because I think a reader might not understand it. Dictionaries exist to look up words, and a good dictionary is an invaluable resource. Encouraging children to read, teaching them how to look up words in the dictionary and showing them how a thesaurus works help create a worthwhile habit. It will give them a head start as they progress through school and higher education.

Have two dictionaries (and a thesaurus)

Have fun playing with unusual words in your writing graphic showing dictionary entries of words

Use a modern as well as an older dictionary

Possessing two good dictionaries, a modern one (hard copy or online) and an older one (such as the Oxford) is a great idea. Some years ago, in a writing workshop I attended, the presenter mentioned in passing that:

In 1974, there were 475,000 words in common use in the English language

In 1995, that had gone down to 215,000 commonly used words

In 2006, it was estimated to have reduced further to 90,000 words.

That’s scary. The older the dictionary, the more of these ‘lost’ words, or words that have fallen into misuse, will be available to us.

Learning new vocabulary is enriching and consciousness expanding. It makes us better readers and better writers. It’s fun learning new and unusual words and using them in our writing.

The shape of a word on a page can have an interesting effect on how readers visualise your story. Keep your readers on their toes with an oddly shaped word now and then. Don’t overdo it because then the writing inclines towards the tedious. The sentences below use a few too many, but it’s all in the spirit of fun and playfulness.

Check out the weird and outlandish world of eccentric words at

Here are a select few:

lethologica – the inability to recall a precise word for something

Avoid lethologica in your writing by considering the following unusual words.

gongoozler: an idle spectator

The origin of this word is early 20th century. It referred to a person who idly watched activity on a canal. Before 1970 it was rarely used and it is thought to have come from the Lincolnshire words gawn and gooze meaning to stare or gape (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/gongoozler)

tarantism: an urge to overcome melancholy by dancing

Have fun playing with unusual words in your writing. picture of an exotic lady dancing but looking melancholy

Dancing away melancholy

Looking for the perfect turn of phrase to describe your character’s mood? Chances are good that a word for their exact disposition already exists. Is one of your characters a philosophunculist – one who pretends to know more than they do to impress others? Is your protagonist inclined to mulligrubs – bouts of depression or low spirits? Perhaps he is an aeolist, a pompous windy bore who pretends to have inspiration. I’m sure we’ve all met our share of aeolists.

If your descriptive passages are becoming too verbose, try incorporating some unusual descriptive terms. You can simplify your prose and expand upon your readers’ vocabulary – and let’s face it, your own! – at the same time.

How succinct, for instance, to say that:

your character is indulging in algerining, rather than saying he’s prowling around with the intent to commit a burglary

or that the audience at a controversial play exsibilates, lets out a collective hiss of disapproval

or that Mr Bumble in your period novel enjoys the art of oculoplania, letting his eyes wander while assessing a lady’s charms

Have fun playing with unusual words in your writing. people running and boys looking at girl

Indulging in oculoplania

and that while he is thus pleasantly occupied, he hears brontide in the distance, the low rumbling of distant thunder.

Similar to our philosophunculist is the ultracrepidarian, who speaks and offers opinions on matters beyond their knowledge. They may well have a tendency towards inaniloquence, speaking foolishly or being full of empty or idle talk.

Let’s hope they don’t end up experiencing a wanweird, an unhappy fate.

Have fun playing with words

Have fun playing with unusual words in your writing. picture saying that playing with words is absolutely allowed

Play with words and have fun!

This article was a collaboration between editors4you.com and Rhiannon Raphael, a former student of Bond University who undertook a 3-month internship with editors4you

I invite you to download my self-published eBook “Ten Ways to Super-Charge Your Writing Skills! with bonus chapter on Self-Publishing”

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Gail Tagarro, Accredited Editor, IPEd

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