Isn’t that a great word—specificity? It has such a nice ring to it. I like the way it feels coming out of my mouth and the fact that I can say it correctly. It’s also a great goal to aim for in our writing.
It happens to the best of us. We sometimes get a bit lazy and use general words that add little to the pizzazz of our stories or the imagination of the reader. The animal that landed in the pond was a bird and not a great blue heron. The vehicle we used to learn to drive is a car rather than Dad’s emerald green Pontiac Le Mans with the white vinyl top. Grandma’s dessert after Sunday dinner was always pie instead of lemon custard pie topped with fluffy meringue browned on the tips. Did that last one make you hungry? Great! That’s what specificity does to writing.
Go through a piece you’ve written and circle all the nouns. Then ask yourself if the word you used is the most specific available. Could you add modifiers to make it more realistic? Is the word important enough to warrant this treatment? Then make your decision to let it stand, change the word, or adorn it in some way. Make sense?
If you found this tip helpful, there’s plenty more where that came from in the next session of the Edit Like an Expert program, which begins on November 2nd. The program will make you a better writer and editor; I guarantee it.