Book Review: The Writer’s Lexicon

A new tool for writers: The Writer’s Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann


You’re a writer. You just read your manuscript and discovered your characters nodding like marionettes in every chapter. When they’re not nodding, they’re rolling their eyes.


Time to slash the Pinocchio strings and turn them into real live people. Award-winning author Kathy Steinemann will provide the tools. She cuts through the so-called rules and offers simple solutions.

Too many repetitions of “little”? There’s a cure for that. Do you rely on “very” too often? There’s a cure for that too. You’ll find the remedies in this book’s dispensary.

Should you ever use anything other than “said” to attribute dialogue? Are exclamation points taboo? The answers might surprise you.

Learn how to harness body language, cut hackneyed adjectives, and draw on the environment for ambiance. No more wooden characters. You’ll transform them into believable personalities your readers will learn to love. Or hate.

Get in the driver’s seat, relax, and enjoy your journey—with Kathy Steinemann’s book as your GPS.

Why I read this book

I enjoy Kathy Steinemann’s blog, where over the last couple of years she has produced various lists helpful to writers looking for alternatives to common and overused words and phrases. Needless to say, I was excited to see many of the posts reproduced and expanded into book form.


I give this book 5 out of 5 stars

The book consists of the following lists and discussion: overused words and phrases (such as frown, smile, little, said), overused punctuation, taboos in writing, sensory words, and the environment. Each section includes a discussion of the word or phrase in question, examples of improved word usage, lists of alternative words, and some exercises.

Good points

This book is an excellent resource. Like most writers, I’m prone to repeating common words and sometimes find it difficult to get out of the rut and come up with alternatives. Not only does Kathy offer many, many alternatives, she discusses the reason behind why particular words may have been used and what emotions the writer is attempting to invoke. This discussion leads to alternative ways of creating narrative without using the words or a direct substitute.

The variety of words covered is extensive and uses most of the words I have particular problems with. I’m looking forward to using the book to reduce instances of turned, nodded, and frowned in particular!

This book complements another favourite of mine, The Emotion Thesaurus (by Angela Ackerman). Many of the ways to show emotion in writing can involve repetitive bodily actions and feelings. Between these two books, I now have many ways to add interest to my writing without repetition or cliche.

Bad points

The exercises and story prompts didn’t really do it for me. I tend to be the kind of person who scans a book like this when buying it, and then refers to it as needed, rather than doing exercises just for the sake of it. They were useful as examples, but probably not a part of the book I shall use ongoing. However, I’m sure they will be useful for some people.


A great tool for enabling self-editing and analysis of one’s own work. Definitely a must-have for the writer’s library.



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