Words are the number one tool of the writer. Without words there are no sentences, no paragraphs, no chapters, and ultimately, there are no books. Sometimes the biggest problem of a writer is coming up with the right word for the situation. But this post is not about word choice deliberation. Or, at least, not in such a straightforward manner.
I have a question. How do you feel about using difficult vocabulary in books?
I'm specifically referring to the vocabulary found in YA and adult books. Why? Because most of the people reading them appear to have a fairly stagnant word bank.
That's right. Younger readers are encouraged to learn new words all of the time. But, teens and adults don't actively try to improve their vocabulary and, thus, the average reading level of adults in the United States is somewhere in the 8th-9th grade range.
I'm asking because a lot of people think challenging vocabulary is obnoxious--especially when there's a lot of it. Sure, the Kindle has made this less of an issue thanks to its dictionary function, but not many people have e-readers and not every word is in the dictionary (ie: foreign words).
Now I think that writers should feel free to use whatever words they want. The instant you start paring down your vocabulary to accommodate people, your story suffers. You have to write what you feel--what fits with the book. For example, what would a story in a cake shop be without mention of fondant?
However, you must be aware of your audience at the same time. No one wants to look up a word every five sentences. Make it easy to infer your meaning. Also, you definitely shouldn't be using complex vocabulary in picture books.
So what do you think about words like luxuriate and mien? Do you want to see them in a book? Or should writers try to limit their vocabulary? Do you think that writers threaten to alienate their audience or muddle the meaning of their stories through certain word usage? Tell me what you think in the comments!