Feel It

Words have meaning, but they also have feel, texture, tone. Readers know this even if they’re not aware of it. Unfortunately, readers become most aware of tone when it isn’t right. It’s like when a DJ queues up a song in a mix that clashes with everything that came before it. Everyone stops dancing and awkwardly reaches for a drink. So it is with writing.

The maddening truth about tone is that there’s no tidy rule for it. Either it works or it doesn’t. But if you read for tone, and make yourself aware of it within the context of a piece, paragraph, or sentence, it will jump out at you when it’s off.

Here’s a microlevel example:

NOPE: He would belt out “I Fall in Love Too Easily” at the end of every set.

It takes some music knowledge to be aware of this, but “I Fall in Love Too Easily” is one of the softest, saddest ballads ever written. Just track down a Chet Baker rendition if you don’t believe me. It’s not a song that a singer would belt out.

YEP: He would croon “I Fall in Love Too Easily” at the end of every set.


HEY, READERS! The verb croon works OK in the above example, but I bet there’s an even better word. Listen to Chet Baker’s take on “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and suggest a more fitting word than croon. The winner will get public congratulations on the blog.

E-mail me at: thewritingguide @ gmail dot com.

7 Responses to “Feel It”
  1. Pat says:

    He would softly pray “I Fall in Love Too Easily” at the end of every set.


    • He would wander through “I Fall in Love Too Easily” at the end of every set.
    • He would float upon “I Fall in Love Too Easily” at the end of every set.
    • He would hold “I Fall in Love Too Easily” in his hand like a wounded sparrow, urging it to fly away on renewed wings but secretly hoping it would stay with him forever, clutched gently to his chest. At the end of every set.

  2. livermoron says:

    Interesting blog. I hope you continue it.

    How about ‘reminisce’ or ‘reflect’? It seems to me that the singing is understood, but that the nature of the singing is what is lacking. ‘Belting out’ a tune evokes Ethel Merman, while ‘reflecting’ on a tune brings to mind melancholy and wistfulness.

    • cbgaines says:

      Ah, I like! I like! Those words also have a quality of lingering, which is what you do with that tune: linger on the notes, linger on the feeling.

      • livermoron says:

        Thanks! I love language and am very appreciative of the huge vocabulary and relative openess to abstraction that English has to offer.

        BTW, “croon” strikes me as a style observation. To my mind, only a man can croon. Good crooning is mellifluous if somewhat devoid of passion. Poor crooning is smarmy.

        May I consider your response the “public congratulations”? If so; I am humbled. If not; the hell with ya!

        I took a risk with semi-colons. Living on the wild side!
        I plan to be a frequent visitor.

      • cbgaines says:

        Consider this official bestowal of public congratulations. You’re welcome back anytime!

  3. livermoron says:

    I’d like to thank all the little people…

    After further mulling, I think I actually prefer the word “laments”. Not a jot tinny and strikes me as more descriptive of the feelings at the core of the music.

    Pat: I hope no hard feelings. I was sure your use of the sparrow was going to be decisive.

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