Perfect Words
Our vocabulary is nonexistent when we are born, but we see the big people making noises and want to join in. My first spoken word was “apple,” and my daughter’s was “mom.”
As our vocabulary grew, we began reading and understanding the power of words. Soon, we were writing and creating our sentences that other people could understand. This ability allows us to look at something and explain how it looks, works, feels, tastes, and smells. See that? I am using words to describe words.
How did I do it? To write that sentence, I needed a mental database of words and used my writing experience to choose the right words and logically string them together. The result was easy to understand and conveyed my exact thoughts.
All adults have a broad vocabulary after many years of life experience, reading, and writing. From this immense number of words in my vocabulary, I chose the best ones to describe my thoughts.
Yet, my sentence could have been better. Instead of “looks, works, feels, tastes, and smells,” I could have written, “appears, functions teases my fingers, and fills my nostrils with sent.” That second attempt is not as direct, but it is more flowery. Flowery? Wow! What an extraordinary word. In fact, it is the perfect word to describe that second attempt.
This is the area I wanted to explore. In every sentence, there is a possibility of having the perfect word (or phrase). This single gem outshines all the others and makes the writer look like a superstar.
Here are four bad/good examples. “Let’s adjust and tweak the controls for the best performance.” “Let’s optimize the controls for the best performance.” “Paint that section light-blue.” “Paint that section turquoise.” “Add a pinch more salt.” “Add 1/8 tablespoon more salt.”
How about a real-life example? My Uncle Al was a larger-than-life man who went far out of his way to make a powerful impression. I remember a conversation where somebody attempted to impress Al by bringing up a useless fact. Al commented, “Aren’t you a potpourri of information,” Potpourri? A perfect word that shut the arrogant person down.
In another conversation with Al, we were going deep sea fishing. He hooked a “giant fish” and reeled it in as fast as possible. Because of the depth, this took time, and Al boasted about the epic size as he cranked away. Near the top, the fish became unhooked, or a seal took it.
The six hooks and weight came out of the water, revealing a tiny fish. “Nice keychain,” was my brash comment. We still speak fondly about that conversation, all because of one word.
I view sentences like a pyramid with a single word standing on the top. Yet, perfect sentences are difficult to create. Take the word blue. When I plug it into, it lists blue-green, azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, royal, sapphire, teal, turquoise, ultramarine, and blue-gray. Beryl, cerulean? I have never read these words before.
This brings up an important point. A writer must consider their audience. Take the previous example. “Paint that section blue.” “Paint that section beryl.” (I had to look the word up. It means dark-blue.) If I spoke that sentence to a color expert, it would sound impressive, but it would be nonsense to the rest of us.
How do we choose the perfect word? It is tempting to answer, “Keep a thesaurus nearby.” However, I often find that the perfect word comes from outside the topic.
I have found that an excellent source of outside-the-box words and examples of how to use them comes from comic strips. To create these, the cartoonist must think ultra-carefully about each word because they only get a few. The Farside cartoons by Gary Larson are perfect examples. Each one contains a gem of a sentence, and I keep them in the back of my bonkers mind as examples of humor.
Am I advising you to read cartoons and use their wisdom to write the perfect sentence and have a robust vocabulary? Umm, yeah. Umm, yeah? Wow, that is not a powerful sentence to make my point.

You’re the best -Bill
August 16, 2023
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