“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
― Mark Twain, The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain
Did you ever try to find the right word, only to to circle around it for a while, look up its synonyms, and synonyms of the synonyms to make your sentence perfect? I have. And if you are reading this, you probably have as well.
Words are difficult. They have multiple meanings and sometimes don't create the exact mood or flow you want in your writing. Or, the meaning you wish to convey is not the meaning others perceive. This infuriating process can drive us crazy, and may explain why some writers go mad.
To help alleviate the problem, consider giving your work a rest. Put it away for a while, and revisit it after letting it simmer on the shelf (or in the computer file). Reading our words after a resting period allows us the space to read them again as if they were new. This process may help us identify sentences that don't flow, or find words that don't fit. A little time also can help us spot unnecessary words or a confusing word order.
When reading the work after a rest, ask yourself if the words you've chosen make the sentence smooth and creamy, or rough and itchy? Here's an example:
First version - Mrs. Longberger's night clothes puffed out behind her as she walked briskly down the hall. (Not terrible, but a little rough and itchy.)
Second version - Mrs. Longberger's dressing gown billowed behind her as she traversed the long hallway. (Smooth and creamy. The words are softer.)
Are traversed and walked synomyms? I thought so, but wasn't positive, so I looked them up. According to the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary (online) traverse means to move or travel through an area. Close enough. There are other meanings, but I decided that this word conveys the correct mood.
Every word is important, and giving yourself a little time and space to read your work again may improve your writing.