Concrete vs Abstract

Words can be classified into two categories: concrete and abstract. All writers use both type of words and both are appropriate depending on the writer's purpose.

Concrete words are specific words that refer to definite persons, places, or things. The word 'church' refers to a general type of building, but 'St. James Catholic Church 'indicates a certain edifice and thus it brings to mind a church that one can see.

Abstract words, on the other hand, are used to discuss general ideas as in the above example. The word 'church' does not bring to mind a specific building nor does it create an image in one's mind. It is a common word but does not picture a particular image in the readers mind. Other abstract words generate an idea, an impression, or a concept that has no specific or tangible existence, so some words are more intangible than others.

Of course, all words have their use. The job of the writer is to use the words appropriate to the message to be sent. If a writer wants to engage the senses, then the choice is concrete words; if the author wants to deal with broad ideas, then abstract words are more suitable.

In today's writing, fiction or non-fiction, the use of concrete words rather than abstract words is preferred, especially in literature or articles. Since concrete words deal with the senses, they are more fitting for fiction.

Strunk and White in The Elements of Style state "Use definite, specific, and concrete language." because these words call up pictures that use the senses.