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Lexicons and Tatoos October 25, 2009

Posted by byanode in Blogging Tools.
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Readers return when they find treasures in postings. As writers, we rarely know what motivates a blog reader’s hunt, so we use categories and tags like sparkly bread crumbs to lead them to our idea mine. A one time visit is a tick on the stats, but mutual value is gained when a reader finds what they need and returns to find more. A consistent use of words and accurate use of terms creates trust in the content and loyalty in the reader.

When writing a blog, a lexicon is a simple tool to track and use consistent terms to engage the reader, keep the writer focused and to optimize searches.

Last summer, at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer  Writer’s Conference, Pricilla Long, our creative and masterful seminar instructor proffered a simple, unpolished gem of an idea that generates returns – the build out of a lexicon of authentic, accurate terms on a subject. Using correct words makes meaning clear and tightly hooks a thought into the reader’s mind. Different from a thesaurus of words of similar meanings, a lexicon is a collection of words and phrases about a subject. Each subject in a blog may have its own lexicon, Reusing certain words from one posting to another unites the postings, using unique, more precise words as the quantity of blog postings grows, enhances the value of the blog to the reader.

Developing a lexicon generates more avenues, more topics for postings. While an Excel or Word doc could be used, Pricilla recommended that we keep a small book to list what we see and add the real names or precise words for what we observe. I use a small black spiral sketchbook from Blick, an art supply store, for my collection of lexicons. The book is easy to pull out when I am observing something new, or when I confirm the proper name for something I previously listed in vague or lay terms.

In a morning writing session, before class in Taos,  accessorized  only by a steaming cup of coffee, I listed the word shrub in my lexicon. On a tour later that afternoon, our guide, a native New Mexican confirmed that I saw a Cholla Cactus. I wasn’t wrong in saying shrub, but naming it cactus, clues the reader that I saw prickly spines and not evergreens. Naming the cactus, Cholla Cactus further hooks readers who relate to the name. In my lexicon book, I start a new page for each topic. On the inside front cover, I run a list, like a table of contents, of the lexicons I have created.

I like that the book is unlined and a sketch book. While I am no artist, I permit myself to draw what I see when I don’t know the correct word. My primitive lines help me remember how to describe it later. I have a couple photos stuck in my lexicon book now, to keep for the same reason.

I am not afraid to ask “experts,” to interpret what I am seeing. Recently, I accompanied my niece to get a tattoo. Once she was settled and Chris, the tattoo artist was at work, I pulled out my lexicon journal to jot the items surrounding us. CD player; CDs (Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Garth Brooks???); books on butterflies, history of tattoos, flowers, religious tattoos, how to draw people; inks in jewel tones, earth tones on a stair step display. With Chris chatting as he developed the design, I felt comfortable asking him to provide specific names of tools that he used without turning her sea horse into a unicorn. “So, what’s the correct name for the tattoo machine you’re using?” “Tatoo machine” he replied.
Sometimes, a word is just a word. And, a list of words can be a gold mine.