Words that describe, words that evaluate

Are your words objective and unbiased, or do they judge?

The beauty of well-chosen words is that they convey rich information. We use oral or written language to tell stories, to paint pictures, to help others know, see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the things that we have known, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt.

We do all this through the power of descriptive words. Through description, we can tell readers or listeners about a massive, moss-covered oak stump, on which sat a tiny Yorkshire terrier puppy staring up at us with its head cocked to one side.

But some words go beyond description; they don’t just tell objectively about how things are. Some words are evaluative, and they include judgments about the goodness or badness of something. Through evaluative words, the the puppy becomes adorable.

In this case, the attribute of being adorable is subjective. A different person might say that the puppy looks like something from a mawkish greeting card.

With descriptive words, a car can be expensive. Through evaluative words, it becomes over-priced.

A manager can be energetic, or overbearing.

Writers use both descriptive and evaluative words. Good writers understand the difference, and weigh their words based on this: “Do I want to describe, or evaluate?”

This entry was posted in Word Choice. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Words that describe, words that evaluate

  1. Lars Walker says:

    There’s a classic game of triads (I don’t know what it’s actually called):

    I am principled. You are narrowminded. He is a bigot.

    I am a bon vivant. You overdo it sometimes. He is a drunk.

    I am easygoing. You cut some corners. He is lazy.

    I am spontaneous. You’re unreliable. He is nuts.

    For a woman: I am friendly. You are easy. She’s a slut.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s