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Use Age-Appropriate or Historically Accurate Language

One element of success when writing your historical or children’s story is the use of language. It is very important to understand the language spoken during a specific time period. Words that were used as recently as 25 years ago are either not used today or have a different meaning than in the past.

For example, the word balderdash was one of the worst curse words a person could use 150 years ago. It is rarely used today.

Consider what the culture and society were like for the particular group you are writing about. Different cultures may have many words for the same thing. A medieval warrior might be a knight in England, a samurai in Japan, a Shaolin monk in parts of the Far East, or a Teutonic knight in Lithuania. Merchants who were looked upon favorably in western culture were the lowest members of society in China.

What is an anachronism? Definition: An anachronism is an event, person, item, or verbal phrase placed in the wrong historical time period. Here is an example from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in Act II, Scene I, lines 193-194.

Brutus: Peace! Count the clock.

Cassius: The clock has stricken three

Of course, the wall clock was invented by the Swiss hundreds of years after the Roman Empire’s collapse. Do your research before taking on the giant task of writing a historical work.

In addition, when writing for children, check the text of your manuscript to be certain that words used are age appropriate. Using words that children do not understand is a common mistake among inexperienced writers looking to place their children’s books.

For example, if you are submitting a young-reader book, choose words that children ages six to nine will understand. In many picture books humor plays an important role. Children enjoy hearing a book that makes them laugh or giggle.

(How many times will a child ask you to read the same book?) Make sure that the jokes are age appropriate, as well as the reading difficulty. Kids laugh at kooky things. They like visual jokes, corny jokes, silly riddles, far-fetched situations, quick thinking, and the traditional pie in the face slapstick comedy.

Nonsense, absurdity, and exaggerations work for kids.

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