Monday, April 27, 2009

Mentor Monday--Specificity

Specificity--what a lovely word! I love the way it sounds, but better yet, I love what it means for a writer--to explicitly set forth.

Many who want to write for kids lack specificity. They may write about a bird. They may even call it a brown bird, but how much better would it be for the readers, if the writer said it was a house sparrow?

If you write a story that has a brown bird in it, one child may think of a female robin while another may think of pigeon. Why not say what you mean? If you mean a barred owl then state it.

Photo by Michael Hodge

Kids may not yet have a college education, but they do know more than we sometimes give them credit for. Surely they know an owl from a sparrow. And if they don't know, they can always look it up!

Barred owl
a large owl, Strix varia, of eastern North America, having its breast barred and abdomen streaked with dark brown.

Not convinced? What do you think of when I say "yellow flower"? If you thought daffodil then that implies a season that's completely different than if I were thinking of a chrysanthemum--fall, or a sunflower--summer.

Or try this. I say "a horrible smell." How many different sources of horrible smells are there? Hundreds, probably--dog poop, burnt popcorn, melting plastic, a rotting squirrel carcass, boiled Brussels Sprouts, etc.

Being specific doesn't mean being overly wordy. It means giving your readers the information they need!


1 comment:

Mur said...

Good point, Diane. I've used this idea with children during school visits when we talk about improving writing with detail.