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Let me say first that in California it's soda. Not pop. Not coke (generically speaking). And never, ever soda pop. Just soda.
I thought it was interesting that Debbie's post came immediately after Bonnie finished reading/editing on of my manuscripts. Bonnie. From Canada. I was amazed to discover the differences that exist in language between my small place in the world, and hers, even though our countries are next-door neighbors on this planet. At times I laughed at the references she didn't understand or wasn't familiar with; other times I was just plain surprised. For example: I laughed when she questioned my use of the phrase "crazy bone" instead of "funny bone." She'd never heard "crazy bone" before. So I wondered, is this just a family thing for me, that I use crazy bone instead of funny bone because that's what I grew up hearing? But I checked the dictionary and sure enough they're interchangeable. And when I made reference to AARP, Bonnie said, "I don't know what this is, but I'm Canadian ..." That really made me laugh.
I also had to laugh at Henrietta's "knock me up" comment. She'd have gotten a double-take from me, for sure. It reminded me that in America when we say, "I'm stuffed," we mean that we're full from a hearty meal. But in South Africa, it's a crude sexual term. Who knew?
Bonnie's comments to my manuscript combined with Debbie's post were reminders that how we present our message matters. It's important that we not lose our readers with our jargon. Sure, there are times when jargon adds to the characterization of a cast member of your novel. And usually the reader can discern the meaning of unfamiliar words/terms by the context in which it's used. But since the purpose of writing is to communicate, it behooves the writer to keep jargon to a minimum. This is one area where an editor can help point out language that might be too narrow in its scope.
Another way to lose or frustrate readers is to pepper your prose with words most people don't know the meaning of. I enjoy coming across a new word every now and then as I read fiction, but who wants to read for pleasure with a novel in one hand and a dictionary in the other? I realize most e-readers will define any word the cursor stops on. But having to use that feature repeatedly would certainly take the pleasure out of reading. And if, like me, you prefer to hold a real book in your hands when you read, you either look up the words you don't know or skip over them.
Which leads me to my main point. As Christian authors we continually run the risk of speaking a language not everyone understands. Even within Christian circles terms can mean different things to different denominations. To those unfamiliar with Christianese we might as well be speaking Greek. It's a sure way of alienating a reader. We who write faith-based fiction should strive to write it as though we're speaking to people who don't understand the language of the church.
I love the quote by by author Elmore Leonard, who said of his writing: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip." I'm one of those readers who never skips a word. Not one. I don't skim over description, and if I come to a word I don't know the definition of I look it up. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority in that regard. What about you? What kind of reader are you?