Big Words

Feedback from our beta readers has been coming in. It’s been a great experience this time around, all of our readers have provided excellent comments and suggestions. A lot of what has been said is the same from reader to reader: major sections or plot points that need to be fixed. But each reader has unique criticisms as well, which we carefully consider before revising.

One of the comments we received is that we use “lots of very advanced words.” The questions was posed, “who is your target audience?” with the idea that since a fair number of young adults and even pre-teens have been enjoying Telsharu, perhaps we would want to tone down the vocabulary.

I object to this, and I wonder what your thoughts are. The reason that I have as large a vocabulary as I do is because of the books I read as a youth. If I came across words I didn’t know, I’d truthfully usually skip them in the moment and keep reading, but invariably I’d find myself looking them up later.

Take this for example. I would recommend watching this skit simply for the laughs. However, in it he points out that Shakespeare had a working vocabulary of 54,000 words. The average American has a working vocabulary of 3,000.

I believe books should make you smarter. Not just educational or literary books. I love books that make me think, or teach me something new, whether it’s a new word, a new concept, something new about people, or whatever it may be. I definitely do not believe in dumbing things down to make it easier for people. Haven’t Harry Potter and other recent children’s literature proven that kids and teens can handle more than was previously thought?

Thus, though I didn’t immediately tell my beta reader so, I find myself objecting to the suggestion of cutting some of the bigger words. I don’t want to make the book simpler, I want people to get smarter from reading it. Am I totally up in the night with this? What are your thoughts?

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About vmech
Writer, Taekwondo instructor, and adoption advocate. Author of THE TALE OF TELSHARU and THE SCOURGE OF NARAK.

4 Responses to Big Words

  1. Joy Stubbs says:

    My vote is to keep the “big” words! I’m a firm believer in encouraging readers to expand their vocabularies :o)

  2. Brooke Wyckoff says:

    As someone who has gotten into reading late in life, in the past few years, I love coming across new words! I look a lot of them up, and its fun to notice when I will know one of those new words in a scrabble game of when it comes up in conversation. Keep the big words! But that being said, I did read one book recently that felt way over my head, and it was painful to read because of the advanced language. I felt like I didn’t know half the words. So I think it’s important to find the right balance.

  3. Ellen says:

    If more than one adult felt that the language was too advanced, I am pretty sure that your younger readers will be turned off to it. Your typical young reader does not look up words that are new to them, you are unique in that way. Like Brooke said, you need to strike a balance, really decide who your target audience is. Write maybe one to two grade levels above- if your goal is to make your readers more intelligent by reading your book. If you go to far outside of a younger readers zone of proximal development, you will lose them. But, that being said, it is your book, do what you feel is right.

  4. vmech says:

    I absolutely agree about striking a balance. That said, this is not a YA novel; though a fair number of young adults have enjoyed the first book, the series is still (in my mind, at least) adult fiction. If younger readers want to pick it up, I am thrilled. But I also don’t want to “dumb down” the book just to appeal to younger readers. As has been said, balance is the key. I don’t want anyone to have Brooke’s experience of the book being over their head. But I definitely want to write in an educated fashion. Thanks for your thoughts!

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