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Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ruled by Intellect or Emotion? Tips on Word Choice #6

La maja desnuda (circa 1797–1800), known in En...
La maja desnuda (circa 1797–1800), known in English as The Naked (or Nude) Maja by Francisco de Goya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Certain words/phrases can induce fairly specific responses in readers. As writers, we all know this, but do we use the power of emotion in our work?

For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at something subjective: how to choose between emotional and intellectual words for effect.

In this series I’m looking at the difference between words that seem intellectual as opposed to those that invoke a more emotional response. How you use them is obviously up to you. The point is that the alternatives have the same, or very similar, meanings, but their effect upon the reader can be markedly different. I’ve made some suggestions here, but I’m sure you can think of others.

Intellectual: Anecdote
Emotional: Joke/Story

At the company’s annual dinner, Gordon was full of anecdotes that were intended to keep the audience laughing but which, unfortunately, sent many of the to sleep in their soup. (formal)

Frank had a joke or a story for every situation and kept everyone in stitches with his delivery. (informal)

Intellectual: Difficult
Emotional: Tough

We are navigating difficult waters in these times of economic uncertainty and must remain alert for unseen hazards and barriers. (intellectual and formal)

It’s been a tough few weeks, but we’ve got through it and now we can start to improve again. (emotional, informal)

Intellectual: Nude
Emotional: Naked

There’s a theory that maintains that ‘nude’ is a voluntary state, whereas ‘naked’ is an imposed one. That may be true under certain circumstances, but I don’t believe it to be universally the case. These are terms that can frequently be interchanged, in fact. However, I’ll try to give examples of the way they can be used differently.

Daphne worked as a life model and spent much of her time nude in front of groups of art students and evening class attendees. (intellectual, formal)

Daphne slowly removed each item of clothing until she was entirely naked, at which point, she stepped out of the trees, ran across the beach and plunged into the sea. (emotional, informal)

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