I’m Back and the Thing about The Word “Thing”

By Estelle Erasmus

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So, I haven’t posted here in a while. At first I thought that I’d post after the 2017 ASJA conference in May in NYC, where I was chair and also taught a workshop on pitching. Here is a link to my post on the experience).

At ASJA ready to Chair
My coaching students have been asking me when I was going to blog my publishing wisdom again, so here is a rule of writing I’ve been wanting to cover here for a while.

Estelle’s Publishing Wisdom

The Thing about “Thing”

My students often write the word “thing” in their essays and articles, and when I edit them I always cross it out and ask them to find a better word.

In writing, the more descriptive you are the better. Think about it: if someone says, “I loved that thing you did, “wouldn’t you want to know what it was exactly that they loved? Wouldn’t it be better if they had told you, “I loved the way you sang that song”? Of course, it would.

I always teach my students and clients that as writers we need to get more specific.

Here’s a great example.

When I think about the things we used to do together, it makes me sad.

Now, isn’t it better and more interesting to write it this way:

When I think of how we used to go out dancing, and sip milkshakes from the same straw, it makes me sad.

See the difference? Its a big one.

So bottom line; Use specific verb/nouns (sip milkshakes) and verbs (dancing) to make a sentence clear so it will resonate with the reader. It elicits emotion, which is what you want. Most people can relate to dancing and milkshakes, but they can’t to the word “thing.”

Nevertheless, I understand essay writing is difficult. Sometimes, the best thing a student can do is to ask for someone to ‘do my essay for me‘. Not only can you learn from an essay written by someone else, but it will help you reach your target grades.

Travel Fun

After the ASJA conference in May, in June, I took a much needed family vacation to Israel, for my first time and did everything from ride a camel, to see the Shuk (and put in some prayers for family and friends), do an underground tunnel tour, eat fabulous cuisine (I’m obsessed with their Hummus), tour Masada, do an authentic archeological dig, and swim in the Dead Sea.
Camel riding in Israel
Riding a camel on the way to Masada
In Jerusalem by the entrance to the Shuk

In July, I stepped up my writing coaching business with international and national students (you can see their testimonials here), and got out a few pitches resulting in these articles which I’m proud of

Blowing the Best Invite of My Life (Ozy),

Finding Purpose in a PreRetirement Trip to Ecuador (Next Avenue/PBS)

Summer Crafts for Kids Using What You Already Have (Food Lion)

The Buzz on At-Home Microneedling Kits (Zwivel.com)

And because of my beauty background I was asked to write these pieces

The Best Clean and Natural Body Washes and Creams (ThirdAge)

9 of the Best Clean and Natural Facial Cleansers (ThirdAge)

Plus, I have a print piece coming out in Brain, Child this month and one in Family Circle next year.

In August, I spoke at the Writer’s Digest Conference on personal essay writing (see pics below)

Writer's Digest
With WD’s Jessica Strawser, my class, and friends at the Writer’s Digest Conference
I’ve also been teaching a personal essay writing class for Writer’s Digest. Right around that time, my mother-in-law also came to visit and we took a great trip to Cape Cod, and we also went whale watching in Provincetown and had yummy lobster at several places, including the Brewster Fish Company.
One of the best cooked lobster dishes I’ve ever had at The Brewster Fish Company on Cape Cod. #foodie #lobster
Somewhere in between, I did two FB live videos on my newly verified Facebook page. That makes it a trifecta–I’m verified on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What’s next? Maybe Wikipedia? Bueller, Bueller?
Which brings us to the Fall. My daughter started third grade (where does the time go), I was a preliminary judge for the Erma Bombeck (Humorist-in-Residence) Writing Competition (also see my post from when I was at the conference and and was part of Speed dating on publishing -read my post here).
Last month I spoke at the New York Women in Communications Student Career Conference on getting published and the freelance life. I really enjoyed all the interaction from the students, and loved sharing my publishing advice with them (see pic above).
Thanks for reading. I will also try to do a few more Facebook Live videos on my Facebook page, so don’t forget to follow me there.
May all your dreams manifest in 2018!


42 thoughts on “I’m Back and the Thing about The Word “Thing””

  1. I think being more specific in what we say (or write) is a better way to communicate with our audience. You really drove a point there. I may be guilty of it sometimes, but this time I will be more careful.

  2. Thanks for being an amazing English teacher to your students! I think that’s really a good move, to give them a chance to look up new words and use those instead!

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! I love teaching my students and watching them grow as writers, and get published in great places1

  3. It’s nice that you’re encouraging your students to write better and to choose their words wisely. It’s definitely not okay to keep using “thing” especially in essays or articles.

  4. Wow what an interesting post. I never had that problem with expressing and finding bigger words than “thing” because I am an overly descriptive person.

  5. I have a thing about the word “thing” as well. I’m a bit of an English obsessive person so I know what you mean about being more descriptive.

  6. It does sound like you’ve been busy! I appreciate the reminder to be descriptive, eliminating the thing. I tell my students that verbs give away a good writer from a great one. He said, she said, they said. Ugh. There are so many other choices out there.

  7. What a great article! I noticed this year I am using the thesaurus more and more so that I can broaden my vocabulary and not sound so repetitive. I would love to attend something like your personal essay writing classes!

    PS – Welcome back!

  8. It’s really cool that you’re teaching that class. Congrats on the verifications too! I’m liking your advice on the word “thing!”

  9. Looks like you have been busy! I had an English teacher teach me to use any other word but “thing”, and I know it has helped in my writing. It made me think more deeply about what I am trying to get across and how others read it. Looks like Israel was amazing. I would love to travel there some day.

    1. I think that people might have learned it a long time ago (not to use thing) but its use is so prevalent that they forget. Glad you remembered what your teacher said.

  10. Sounds like you have really been busy with all you have been doing. Israel is on my bucket list.

  11. I have never had the chance to ride a camel, but I’ve always wanted to do that type of “thing”. I kid, I kid. Great advice!

    1. Thanks so much. I am going to give little bits of publishing wisdom in each post, hopefully. The camel experience was a bucket list one.

  12. I’m so glad to see a new post from you! I agree about the word thing. I find it much better to actually get into what those “things” were.

    1. Thanks Stacie. It makes such a difference. My students notice a big change in their writing when they start switching out thing with other words.

  13. Wow, Israel must have been so amazing. I have a friend there right now and I am loving watching her journey though her social media shares.

    1. I’m watching the #mediamagnets too. It was such a great trip in so many ways. And swimming in the Dead Sea was a magnificent experience.

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