Fiction rule of thumb

One more cartoon, and then I have to get on with the rest of my life. This xkcd is from a comment by Army1987 on the Language Log posting “Create a language, go to jail” (here):

A lot of invented vocabulary is certainly a barrier to literary appreciation — and so is a lot of foreign-language vocabulary. Conlang or natural language, lots of unfamiliar vocabulary puts readers off.

(I’m not sure about Randall Munroe’s attitude towards the inflected comparative awesomer; it’s easy to find examples, but many of them are jocular and Munroe might be treating them as non-standard innovations.)

3 Responses to “Fiction rule of thumb”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    I didn’t interpret the italics of awesomer as indicating a neologism; I read it as just indicating emphasis. But it is[/would be] confusing to use the same markup for two different purposes.

  2. Gary Says:

    The tooltip makes exceptions for Lewis Carroll and Tolkien. The Tolkien exception didn’t work for me—I only opened one once and was in despair of all the names.

  3. John Baker Says:

    I’m skeptical of the rule, which is a little too genre-specific for my tastes. Science fiction and fantasy often find it necessary to include made-up words in order to describe things that exist in their worlds but not in ours, and children’s literature also is very neologism-friendly. In contrast, realistic fiction generally will have few words made up by the author, and the number of made-up words will decrease as the fiction becomes more realistic; a convincing police procedural will have none. While there is much well-written realistic fiction and much badly written science fiction and fantasy, the converse is also true.

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