“Why do parents always use weird words?” Cade asked me one day when we were out in the garden.
“Hey, Mr. Chatty, you’re supposed to be pulling weeds,” I said. “And what do you mean, ‘weird words’?”
“You know, like ‘not right now,’ ‘maybe later,’ ‘we’ll see.’ Those weird words.”
The words we use to misdirect or quiet the shouting voices. The ones we use to convey nebulous ideas or delay, rather than answer.
You don’t have to be a parent to use weird words. Here are three reasons to avoid them in writing and in life:
1. Specificity gives your readers (or your spouse) concrete ground to walk on. If you’re not careful, ambiguity will lead to confusion, which leads to lack of interest. No one wants to feel confused – everyone wants to feel intrigued. Beware the fine line between the two.
2. Never hint at something you know you aren’t going to fulfill. Don’t tell your readers “maybe later” when you have no intention of ever going there. Don’t give your blog post or your book a sensational title that doesn’t live up to it; the disappointment experienced by your readers (or your kids) will have them hesitant to react to your next intrigue.
3. At some point you’re going to have to give a straight answer about where the story is going, who the character is becoming, or whether or not you’re going to help them put together that bird feeder. Timing is important. You can’t keep saying “we’ll see” forever.
What do you think? How do these “weird words” hurt our writing or our relationships? Can they be used in positive ways to increase curiosity and perfect timing and delivery?