What kind of writer are you?
Writing styles are as distinct as personality traits—and debates about which way of writing is “best” can often be just as volatile. Where one writer might luxuriate in the complexities and varieties of the lexicon, another might prefer to tell it like it is in the most familiar way possible. Such was the case, in fact, with celebrated novelist William Faulkner, who famously griped that his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, “had never been known to use a word that might send his reader to the dictionary.” Hemingway retorted, “Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” It’s neither productive nor accurate to argue over whether or not there can even be a “best” style of writing, but it is certainly entertaining to figure out which one we most prefer.
To celebrate the publication of the Oxford American Writers Thesaurus, Third Edition (also available online to subscribers of Oxford Dictionaries Pro), we invite you to explore the world of word choice. Do you fashion yourself a champion of Plain English or do you like readers to have to jump through hoops of meaning to understand your prose? Find out what kind of writer you are, or aspire to be, by taking our interactive synonym quiz below:
What kind of writer are you?
You’re a William Faulkner. You chose flowery and formal words commonly used by literary novelists and poets. Other writers known for florid diction are F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Eliot, and Edgar Allan Poe. You dream of Nobel Prizes and National Book Awards every night.
You’re an Ernest Hemingway. You chose clear and unflashy words that get right to the point. Other writers known for this style are George Orwell and Raymond Carver. Try your hand at a six-word memoir, consider a career in journalism, and maintain an active Twitter account.
You’re a Toni Morrison. You chose informal or slang words that indicate a preference for writing in the vernacular. Other novelists known for their informal prose are Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, and J.D. Salinger. If novel writing isn’t your cup of tea, dabble in some blogging or draft a dialogue-heavy script for film or television.
You’re a Vladimir Nabokov. You chose esoteric and technical words that would drive most readers straight to their nearest dictionary. Other novelists known for their use of obscure or difficult language are Thomas Pynchon and Zadie Smith. A career in academia or science writing might suit your tastes.
The opinions and other information contained in the Oxford Dictionaries Online blog posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of OUP.
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