CHARLES HARLOW RAYMOND
'It is a fascinating game, this hunting words, and there is never a closed season. We can
pursue and capture the wiliest and most elusive as well as the most common and most edible
varieties all our days, and our interest, once we have acquired the habit, instead of lagging,
will increase steadily.'
If you seriously want to improve your screenwriting craft, you must develop a passion for using
English well, a love for the well-chosen word. This involves gaining a greater and greater
facility with English grammar, syntax, use, not to mention rhetoric, Greek and Latin roots,
vocabulary, figures of speech, punctuation and capitalization, etc. You must become a bona
Head over to the used bookstore
The best wordsmithing books have all been written, perhaps long ago. While you're at the used
bookstore, check around for some books that might help you become a better wordsmith. One example
is A Book of English by Charles Harlow Raymond (The Athenaeum Press, Ginn and Company, 1936).
Small, almost the size of a pocket book, this little treasure claimed to cover all 'the
essentials of secondary-school English.' Another find is the Reader's Digest Success With Words: A Guide to the American
Language (1983). May you stumble on a treasure there, too.
Get yourself a good dictionary
Any writer worth his salt, or wanting some day in the bright future to be worth anything at all,
must own a good dictionary and keep it close-at-hand. That's not as easy as it might seem anymore
these days what with 'political correctness' attacking the very lifeblood of the language,
directly through the review boards of the largest English dictionaries in existence, in this case.
The 'dumbing down' of America continues unabated, too, so dictionaries are crafted for an
increasingly stupid--and destined to stay that way or get worse--population.
Get over to the biggest bookstore you can find and buy the best dictionary on the
shelves there. Perhaps something like . .
Or you could just go get the best dictionary in the world
(or simply gain access to it).
A good used dictionary may be best
While you're the nearest used book store and buy yourself one of those hard-to-
heft fat dictionary volumes, the ones with the faded yellow pages, and roughed up covers. Make
sure it was printed sometime before the 1960s when the dreaded ghouls and goblins of 'correctness'
started to pervert our language without regard to beauty or natural meaning. A good dictionary, of
the size and heft that might appear on a podium in the reference area of a library, is the
lifeblood of any screenwriter. One of excellent variety can be had used for $20 or so.
Whichever dictionary you choose, keep it handy. Refer to it under just two circumstances: 1)
when you're not certain you know what a word means; and 2) when you ARE certain you know what a
Get yourself a Thesaurus
Older versions of Roget's
International Thesaurus, from the
1960s say, grouped words around ideas rather than listing them alphabetically; a tremendous aide to
the literary mind. Find one of these in a used bookstore.
Consider wordsmithing resources available online . .