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Niceties in language can produce exquisite precision and clarity.

Consider this passage from the short story "Dimension" by the Nobel Prize-winning writer Alice Munro, who died this month at 92:

"She was a chambermaid at the Comfort Inn. She scrubbed bathrooms and stripped and made beds and vacuumed rugs and wiped mirrors."

Munro could more economically have written, "She scrubbed bathrooms, stripped and made beds, vacuumed rugs and wiped mirrors," eliminating the word "and" in two places. But no: Munro made her meaning precise by using "and" in both those places to emphasize the drudgery of the woman's job.

A writer constantly makes such decisions, not just to report data but to make the reader feel the action.

Writing tip: Don't groom your writing as you compose your first draft; just pour your words onto the page. Editing and rewriting and polishing — looking for exactly the right word, especially verbs, to make your case — come after your first swipe at the task.

Another nicety: The colon can be your friend, substituting for an attribution like "she said." For example:

She loved her mother's advice: "Mom encouraged us to believe in ourselves."

Yet another nicety: Most linguistics experts agree no matter the culture, anywhere in the world, people feel comfortable expressing key thoughts by using the same word or phrase three times: the Rule of Three. That rhythm seems to synchronize with the human inner metronome. Example:

Say you are late for an appointment, caught in traffic, and the longer you wait, the more you lose patience and feel gnawing stress. If you were writing about that experience, you might say you were waiting and waiting and waiting. But to let a reader know how tormented you were, you could write that you were waiting and waiting and waiting ... and waiting.

That fourth "waiting" breaks the Rule of Three and helps the reader feel the same discomfort you were feeling.

Gary Gilson can be reached through