Just playing those word games

Just playing those word games

“What do you reckon? Take the Freds, or wait for the Montgomery?”

My brother posed the question knowing we only had to go to the second floor. It was framed in a version of rhyming slang where the rhyming word is left out of the spoken sentence.

“Fred” was short for “Fred Astaire”, “stair”, and “Montgomery” was short for “Montgomery Clift”, “lift”. Should we should walk up the stairs, or take the lift?

My rhyming slang brother also completes cryptic crosswords. But there are word games to suit everyone. My daughter installed Letter Swap on my phone and we play it on the train.

There are word-centric smartphone apps and plenty of succour for devoted logophiles on the bigger screen. For every correct answer on Free Rice, a non-profit makes donations to the UN World Food Program. Food for thought indeed.

For the tactile, Scrabble is undergoing a renaissance, Balderdash awaits your bluff, or you can buy a newspaper, please, and attempt a crossword puzzle.

What does any of this have to do with business writing? Words, or more particularly, word choice, can make or break good communication.

The repeated use of the same word in a sentence or consecutive sentences can ruin the flow of writing. A disrupted reader is not what you need. A thesaurus in your toolbar is helpful, but if you play word games regularly it’s surprising how quickly you will start to come up with your own alternatives.

Writing that flows seems effortless or spontaneous, but it comes from editing, and editing is easy with a good vocabulary. Many of us will watch the remake of The Jungle Book and spellbound with Mowgli and his mates won’t think twice about the editing involved with computer-generated images.

The movie is based on Rudyard Kipling’s book and it was Kipling who said: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

My brother has a broader vocabulary and general knowledge than me. We took the Freds as the Montgomery arrived, but not before I had responded: “My Gingers are in good shape so I’m happy to take the Yogis.”

“Ginger Meggs” is standard rhyming slang for legs. But in this instance “Ginger” also recalled Fred Astaire’s iconic partner Ginger Rogers.

Kipling was right. I was so proud of my retort I was a lot higher than the second floor when we reached our destination.

Darrell Croker is senior coach at Write For Impact.