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One-Syllable Words

A Writing Exercise


A creative writing teacher named Daisee sent in this writing exercise, which she learned from one of her students. The instructions are to write a story of 100 words using only one-syllable words. (For an even more concise version of this exercise, limit yourself to 50 words.)

What does writing with shorter words do for prose? Paula LaRocque, author of The Book on Writing theorizes that the exercise forces writers to use simple, familiar words. When writers are nervous or want to impress, they often choose bigger words, and bigger themes or stories to match them. In doing this, they try to anticipate what will impress their reader and stave off criticism, when in reality, simple, direct prose is generally much more powerful." The stuff we know best," she writes, "usually has a simple name." For example, basic words such as bed, earth, stars, bone, yard, house are all simple words, but they're also rich with emotional potential. In limiting ourselves (or our students) to monosyllabic words, we force ourselves to adhere more closely to direct, personal experiences.

Whatever the reason, many creative writing teachers have found this an effective exercise. But don't take their word for it. Get a pen and paper and judge for yourself.

When we posted this story starter in the blog, we had a slew of responses. Read some of the excellent reader-submitted examples.

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