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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11 thoughts on “Confused by Nonplussed?

  1. Ha Ha! I like Sue’s comment above! It is a strange word, the ‘non’ juxtaposed with the ‘plus’ – one decrease, the other increase ..I know the feeling of that word, as in when I am completely nonplussed when someone makes a particular comment that has no bearing on anything, or is e.g. an unkind remark.
    Thank you Sherrey, an informative reminder to know exactly the meaning of the word and its context.
    And, I have made a computer file for all your lovely posts. They are too valuable to go missing.
    Susan Scott’s Soul Stuff

    1. Susan, I thought about the “non” with the “plus” — and your “one decrease, the other increase” sent my thoughts to knitting! Taking away and adding to a knitted object can make beautiful lace effects. But not always the case in language! I enjoyed drafting this one up — it wasn’t an easy word to work with. Thanks for thinking so highly of my tips. 🙂

  2. Enjoyed these thoughts – especially: As writers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we understand the words we are using and their correct usage. I wish my students took more time to think about the words they used before handing their work in!!

    1. Enjoyed your comment your students! Made me stop and remember times when I was not so cautious about my writing. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Honestly I had never used the word in my writing but I would have used it incorrectly as I did think it meant calm and not affected. Guess you learn something new everyday – especially following the a-z challenge posts!

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