My Febryary 6, 2012 blog, “Finding and Using The Right Word Is Pivotal,” concluded with the observation that, because words are a writer’s most important tool, the acquisition and use of an effective vocabulary should be considered an immecdiate and ongoing challenge.
Here are some important steps you can take to develop your vocabulary.
1. Become a language junkie. Make a list of all new words you encounter. Look up the definition of each word in an unabridged dictionary and write it down. Familiarize yourself with the synonyms listed in the dictionary for the word you’re looking up. There may be additional synonyms for the word available in a thesaurus. Use the word program on your computer or an excel spreadsheet to memorialize each new word and its definition. Review the list frequently.
2. Incorporate each new word into everyday speaking and writing usage. Relate the new word to something or some place in your own previous knowledge and experience. Otherwise, if words are just memorized, the meaning will not be retained. Try to use each new word in your conversation so that it won’t seem to be foreign when you use it in your writing. This is a proven and productive method of learning new words
3. Use each new word as often as possible. Practice and repetition are vital to the learning process. There is no substitute for this approach.
4. Finally, read good books as well as newspapers, magazines, periodicals, etc., extensively, whether online or hardcopy. This is an excellent means for creating an improved vocabulary, not only in terms of learning new words but in learning new applications of words already known. One of the finest writers I have ever encountered, Winston Churchill, had a remarkable gift for the effective use of words. Reading his vast and extensive writings is not merely to journey through history but is also to enjoy an unforgettable experience in the use of words which create an impact on the reader. His excellent, in depth command of the English language is evident in the following passage from Marlborough, His Life And Times, at page 33:
“It is said that famous men are usually the product of unhappy childhood. The stern compression of circumstances, the twinges of adversity, the spur of slights and taunts in early years, are needed to evoke that ruthless fixity of purpose and tenacious mother-wit without which great actions are seldom accomplished.”
It is important to understand that the possession of an effective vocabulary, an important milestone in your writing development, nevertheless marks only part of the distance towards clear writing. You still need the ability to use those words effectively. This means avoiding faulty diction, which includes a multitude of writing sins. Good diction requires the selection of words which are clear, correct, and effective. Of necessity it requires an excellent vocabulary, and is important in speaking as well as writing clearly. There are several elements comprising good diction, which will be treated in coming blogs. Suffice it to say at this point that you will need to pay close attention to this area before your goal of clear writing can be achieved.
Copyright 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.