By AB Plum
Expecting Kay Kendall’s byline? Kay’s on hiatus this week, and I’m subbing.
Years ago (after we stopped chiseling words of wisdom in stone and around the invention of the printing press), I wrote a full page of “high school-news” every week for my daily newspaper.
Like Hemingway and others, I created on my Royal manual typewriter. I met my deadline every week—no matter what. I usually had a minimum of six to eight articles—laid out in columns. Memory says I earned about $.02/word so I sometimes padded my news.
Thinking about those journalistic feats, I realize I was never at a loss for words—or for topics. Now, some days, I find myself reaching for the right word or subject.
In turn, I wonder how many words now exist in English?
Google that question (or variations on it) and you’ll come up with differing views—some of which are pretty close to nit-picking.
Other questions then arise.
- How many words does the average American use every day?
- Is it scientifically accurate that men have a more limited vocabulary than women?
- What’s the most common verb in English?
- How many words does the average person speak/read a minute?
- How many words can the typical six-year-old read/speak?
- How many words do we use in a typical day on our cell phones?
You can see, the list goes on and on and on without asking how many words a writer writes every day? Or how many words in a 300-page novel? Or how do we writers decide on chapter length? Or how many words in a typical sentence? (Ask Hemingway, then read Stephen King).
And OBTW, who, historically, is the most prolific writer in the English language?
I always thought it was Nora Roberts. Check here for some surprises. Here are a few more authors who, taken as a group, must’ve have used every word in our Mother Tongue.
Our Stiletto Gang blogs tend toward between 300-800 words. In these busy times, that seems about “write” to me. While I could wax on about this subject, I won’t. I am, after all, subbing for Kay. Expect her back on the third Wednesday in June.
In the meantime, enjoy a good book, letting the power of words take you into a new place, meet new characters, solve crimes, travel into space, slay a dragon, fall in love, and maybe shed a few tears.
Who’da thunk 26 letters could bring forth such awesome experiences?
AB Plum writes dark, psychological thrillers. She turned out about 500,000 words in the seven-volume MisFit Series. She gave up counting how many words she sliced and diced during edits. She lives in Silicon Valley.