The Word Pool

“All speech acts are goal-oriented.”

That phrase lodged itself in my brain during a linguistics lecture I once attended.

Every thing we say, every word, is to achieve some kind of goal.

I’ve found this idea particularly useful when writing dialogue.

When someone speaks there is a pool of alternative words they can to dip into to describe something.

Let’s say a character is talking about children.

They could choose use a variety of descriptions – for instance kid, brat, squirt, rugrat, tyke, urchin or munchkin.

Each choice has a different psychological effect – brat, for instance, has negative connotations – it implies a child is badly behaved.

Of course a character can choose to speak in a responsible, measured, neutral way. But if they are angry, sad or manipulative there are plenty of charged words to scoop out of the vocabulary pool.

Each choice they make is a way of achieving that goal – and laying bare their soul.

An audio version of this blog is available here:

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