Sometimes the “non” in the word “nonplussed” creates some fuzziness in the writer or reader’s mind.  Like traveling through a maze, understanding “nonplussed” can leave you feeling a bit lost.

 Today’s post attempts to clarify the real meaning of “nonplussed” and how it can be effective in character development.

nonplus |  transitive verb

nonplussed also nonplused nonplus·sing also nonplus·ing

Definition of NONPLUS : to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do :perplex

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Although the word “nonplussed” is a transitive verb, its use is very effective in reflecting the impact one character’s words or actions have on another character.  For example:

Walter’s comments left Julianna nonplussed.

What does this simple sentence convey?  Simply that whatever the two discussed — world affairs, the children’s schedules, a grocery list, finances — Julianna came away feeling confused, bewildered, perplexed.

However, quite often the “non” part of the word causes not only the reader but also the writer to believe the word “nonplussed” has the opposite meaning — that the character who is “nonplussed” is calm, in control, not confused.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!

As writers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we understand the words we are using and their correct usage.  Otherwise, our readers are left confused!

So, beginning now, let’s make it a habit to check the meaning and usage of a word that is unclear.  It will make for happier readers!

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