Writing Reader Observation #11 — Let’s Talk Words


The very first item in a writer’s arsenal is words. We learn these words via everyday conversation and reading. Sometimes we might even look them up if we don’t know the meaning.

And, sometimes we may use a word in our writing when we think we know the meaning. Most of the time we get away with it because the way we use it is close enough to the way we’ve always heard it or read it; so maybe we mostly know the meaning. I have been guilty of this, although I have to admit that these days I look up an awful lot of words before using them (it’s so convenient when you’re hooked up to Google), and this isn’t always because I don’t know the meaning, but I want to determine whether any nuances make it a better word to use.

But that’s me. Going off on a tangent.

What brings me to this post today is the word touché. Here is the definition of touché via Google’s dictionary thingie.

(in fencing) used as an acknowledgment of a hit by one’s opponent.
  • used as an acknowledgment during a discussion of a good or clever point made at one’s expense by another person.

In the past couple of months I have read this word used incorrectly in two different published (not indie) novels. In both cases it was used as agreement. Simple agreement. So the author was kind of right but mostly wrong. However, that means that the editor and the proofreader also didn’t understand the nuance or didn’t care (hopefully not the latter because that would make me sad).

In the last case, the author is an English Professor. And this makes me very sad. In my oh-so-humble opinion, touché is not a tough word because in most contexts the meaning comes across. You would think an English Professor would not only know the definition but might also be one of the first individuals to verify that they were using a word correctly. How do you grade Comp 101 and sleep at night if you aren’t using words correctly?

This may quickly devolve into a rant. So I’ll sum up.

Use your dictionary. Use a thesaurus. Make sure that the words you are using are actually the right ones for the job. It makes your writing good correct.

And, hey, we all love the words. I don’t think we’d be writing otherwise.


13 thoughts on “Writing Reader Observation #11 — Let’s Talk Words

      1. PS. You expect too much. Just because a person made it through school, whether it be a doctor or lawyer or English professor, doesn’t guarantee quality. Someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class. Now, bake some cookies.

      2. No. You’re right. This is a reality check. I’ve been at a university for years. You’d think I would know better, actually I do. Ah, well. 🙂

  1. Good point! I also am always trying to double check that I am using words correctly. But I am sure I have my fill of writing errors. (And guess what? I used the word touché in a conversation I had with my oldest son recently (and then I had to tell him what it meant – but I used it correctly – so I taught him right!)

    1. Yay, you! I have caught myself using words that sound like the word I want to use and then I take a step back and check up the word. So, I’m sure that I’ll find that in my writing. You and I don’t have proofreaders though. 🙂 and I just typed and sent “thought” for “though” just to inadvertently prove my point. 😉

  2. Way to nip in the butt . . . I mean bud. You covered this topic good (well), and I agree the thesaurus is one of a number of the bestest tools a writer can use.

  3. I look up words a lot. Sometimes I get a weird feeling. Sometimes I find I am using the word wrong. Sometimes I find a better word. Usually the word is what I wanted, and I’m good.

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