I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know the meaning of every single word I come across. When I read a word that’s unfamiliar to me, I first try to guess the meaning using the context of the sentence. Then, if that doesn’t work, I’ll use a dictionary if I have one handy.
But I have a confession: sometimes I just skip it.
I know that’s horrible, especially for an editor. I don’t do this when I’m editing, however. If I don’t know if a word is being used correctly I will definitely look it up. But I don’t always have the time or desire to look up a word when I’m reading for pleasure, and so I skip it. This is something I’m trying to get better about, because knowing what words mean can help you as a writer to be more creative.
So, for today’s tip, I’m going to highlight two words I come across regularly that I used to not know. Now I do, and I’m a much better writer and reader for it!
Have you ever encountered a character who is standing with their arms akimbo? I always assumed that meant their arms were crossed. But it doesn’t! It actually means standing with your hands on your hips, like this:
Characters in Jane Austen books are always going away “for the fortnight.” So how long is that, exactly? One day? A week? The correct answer is two weeks. Crazy, right? Who knew?
I’ll never forget what these two words mean, because I remember when I didn’t know what they were! I’m so glad I didn’t just skip over them, though, because the real meaning is completely different from what I originally thought.
Do you take the time to look up words you don’t know or do you skip over them?
Can you think of any specific words you used to not know?