Interesting interview with an author about using statistics to improve our writing. Go here and see what you think.

Some of my observations:

  • Best-selling female writers use more “ly” words than the men do.
  • Beginning a story with the weather is not a deal-breaker for most readers. (But it almost always is for this reader.)
  • Favorite words can tell you a lot about an author.
  • This looks like a book that would be great fun to read.

Bottom line? Some writers “break the rules” and become famous. I like to play it safe, though, so I don’t usually start my stories with long sentences, the weather, or a single character musing, especially if she just woke up in bed. I also avoid “ly” words as much as possible, but I do use them sometimes because, you know, variety is the spice of life, and sometimes there is not a good verb that can stand alone that doesn’t distract from the flow. Every time I read that someone is trotting, I think of a horse. Is that what writers want? Think about the reader! Most readers never notice “ly” words, I’m sure. But weird words that are seldom used will take them right out of a story.


  1. After reading this article a few weeks ago, I ordered and read Ben Blatt’s Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve, the book from which this article draws its information. I found the book incredibly interesting, though I doubt what I learned will impact my writing in any noticeable way.

    • Michael, I put the book on my wish list. I have so many piles of books to read, not to mention the ones on my Kindle, I hestiate to buy any more. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I guess it’s comforting to know that our personalities translate into our work (not sure about that). When I read books published years ago, I’m struck by how much language has changed. Successful writers fifty years ago wrote in ways that editors today would dislike intensely. I’m also not surprised that he finds a noticeable difference between published and unpublished writers. But what he reaffirms is that it all comes down to writing, to the words we choose, and the care we take in using them.

  3. Agreed, Susan. It all comes down to the writing. A fantastic story can be ruined by bad writing. And I guess we do need to follow current trends so we don’t turn modern readers off. To me, all this stuff is uttering fascinating, asI think it is to you.

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