Le mot juste.
You’ve probably heard the expression before, especially if you’re a writer. But “le mot juste” means more than just the literal translation of “the exact word”. It represents the search for that exact word, something every writer can relate to.
This phrase is attributed to Gustave Flaubert who was known to spend hours, days and even weeks looking for that exact word. Probably the best thing I’ve ever read about le mot juste is from the book The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman. In chapter 2, “In Search of the Exact Word”, Goodman takes you through what this quest really looks like, using authors such as Hemingway and Twain to illustrate his point. It’s incredibly well written and informative, as is the rest of the book. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the book would be that great because the title was a little cheesy. But I’m really glad I gave it a chance because it turned out to be a really good read.
If you’re interested in the book (and you should be!), pick up a copy and then check out the Facebook page for some writing exercises and ideas.
P.S. The idea behind le mot juste means so much to me that I got it tattooed on my arm.