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‘Heart’ words vs ‘Head’ words

As writers in English, we are in a uniquely privileged position, being able to choose between two languages within our own. These are ‘head’ language and ‘heart’ language – the rational, and the instinctive. (See Zoe’s writing tip, Head Language and Heart Language for examples) If you want to create ‘oomph’, aim for Germanic language. If you want to imply lack of connection, or prioritise the rational over the emotional, use Romantic.

Exercise: take a scenario and write it twice, once using as many formal, romance language words as you can, and once using Germanic language words. You can do this by feel, or using a thesaurus (including in your word processing software, or online) if you get stuck. You might find that the different words require different sentence structures, too.

Here are some scenarios to try out:

•    An animal attacks its owner
•    A lover ends an affair abruptly
•    A person discovers something unexpected in their house

Alternatively, make up your own, or take one from a story you are working on. Here’s an example of the first scenario, written two ways.

A. Germanic    When Phoebe saw the wound, anger flooded through her. Could she share her home with this fiend? In battle, which of them would win? She backed away, into the kitchen, to think through her next move.

B. Romantic    When Phoebe perceived the perforations to her epidermis, a sensation of acute hostility cascaded through her. Would it be possible to inhabit the same space as this demon? In combat, which of them would be victorious? She retreated to the kitchen to consider her strategy.

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Head language and heart language

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Restricted diction

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Working out the line breaks of a poem

Below is a poem from my second collection, Gunga Jumna (Sky Earth). It’s about imagining going back to…

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Style, voice and sentence

For writers sentences are both the object of their craft and the tools they use to do their…

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Serious nonsense

Coining neologisms (or new words) is a great way to think about sound in your poetry, whilst also…

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