Word Choice

When I was in middle school, I read a biography of J.R.R Tolkien. The biographer took a few pages to describe how fastidious Tolkien was when choosing the exact wording for his writing. This is probably the only detail from that biography that has stuck with me over the years. Compare:

  • “Dwarf doors are invisible when closed.” -Gimli, The Fellowship of the Ring, film directed by Peter Jackson
  • “Dwarf-doors are not made to be seen when shut.” -Gimli, The Fellowship of the Ring, text from the book

I find the differences here interesting. The first is definitely simpler to understand and faster to say, but the second feels much more evocative to me. Just compare the word “shut” vs “closed.” Shut feels more decisive and exclusive (from phrases like “shut out,” “shut up,” etc). I don’t feel like my writing skills are advanced enough yet to make much use of this observation, but it’s something I’ll be keeping in mind as I proceed.

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