Writing Assignment: Make Up A Word And Use It Correctly

by Randy Murray on February 3, 2012

Words are interesting things. Some people call them the atoms of speech and thought. I’m not so sure about that. I think of them more as the bricks, building materials. I see words as rough, big things, not tiny, elemental particles.

We humans have a built-in ability to acquire language and to use it in very specific ways. Take a newborn child from anywhere in the world, move them to another part of the world, and they’ll acquire the local language easily. Research tells us that it takes just two generations to turn any pidgin or creole into a full blown language. It happens naturally. It’s a built-in human facility and it’s fascinating.

New words take on a life of their own, but it’s remarkably difficult for any newly created word to catch on widely. Many have tried, but artificially creating a word and getting it used is difficult.

But it is fun.

For today’s assignment, create a new word, build a definition for it, and use it in a paragraph or short piece.

Think of this as three separate assignments and keep them separate. Have fun! First, invent your word, then create a definition, then write your piece, but do not use the definition in your paragraph or short piece. Let your word do the work.

If you need help, use this word generator to get your mind thinking about word construction.

When you have your word, then develop your own definition and usage and write your paragraph. For my example, I’ve used my creation “postally”, meaning a the quality of a document or surface that is bristling with PostIt notes or flags. And my example.

I found Jeff’s desk a complete postally mess once again. I’m not sure if that means that he’s busy or simply sticky. I spent twenty minutes de-postalizing my desk where he’d left dozens more notes for me, ignoring his requests and assigned to dos. At least when he hands me a document he’s been given to review I can instantly determine the amount of revision necessary by the degree of postallishyness visibly displayed.

Try and use your word in different ways, as I did. See how it changes. Read your paragraph out loud and see how it sounds, feels in your mouth. Play with the word.

What this will teach you: if you do it right, you’ll begin to better understand the basics of grammar and word usage. The rules of the language that you’ve internalized should automatically enforce themselves with your new word. It will look and sound right or it won’t. This type of word play will help you to strengthen your writing skills.


Click here to view and complete previous writing assignments.

And buy a copy of the Writing Assignments book!


The Writing Assignment: Make Up A Word And Use It Correctly by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: