Friday, April 22, 2011
How to Wield the Power of the Syllable
As a writer, it’s important to understand the influence syllables have on words. The more syllables a word carries, the more complex the word becomes and this will impact the rhythm. For example: ‘Acknowledgement’ is not considered a ‘big word’ in terms of the percentage of the population knowing its meaning. It is, however, a complex word because it has four syllables. Words with many syllables will slow down the pace of our prose.
If we choose a word with many syllables over a word with few, then another result is often an emphasis on that word, especially if the majority of our prose is made up of simple words. For example: small (1 syllable), tiny (2 syllables), minuscule (3 syllables), infinitesimal (6 syllables – gasp). ‘Infinitesimal’ has a greater emphasis than small and is stronger than ‘very small’. As demonstrated, using syllables in this way will also lessen the temptation to use adverbs.
The emphasis is made even greater when we place a complex word in amongst simple words and vice versa. We should, of course, ask ourselves, ‘Do I want that emphasis?’
Part of the beauty of rhythms is their variance. It’s good to mix up the syllable count to gain flow to our text.
When choosing words, do you think about their syllable count? What are your thoughts about the more complex words? How often do you read your manuscripts aloud to hear the rhythms?
Note: This post is part of the A-Z Challenge. To learn more about the challenge click the image on my sidebar.
Reminder: I’ve entered my blog into the People’s Choice Award as part of the Sydney Writers’ Centre Best Australian Blogs Award 2011. If you haven’t already, please vote for my blog here. It is listed under W.I.P It: A Writer’s Journey -- Lynda Young.