Clear Writing Requires A Strong Vocabulary

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal dealing with the weak labor market has prompted me to write this post.  The weak labor market should prompt you to improve your writing as part of an effort to improve your job skills.  As one of your resolutions for this new year, learn to write more clearly  – it will increase your opportunities in this economy.

One important approach to this goal is to develop a strong vocabulary.  Like practicing chords when taking piano lessons, vocabulary development can be dull, but it’s a vital ingredient to becoming an accomplished writer.

Vocabulary building is the jumping off point to achieve clarity in writing.  It is probably the single most important step you can take on the road to successful writing and cannot be overemphasized.

As any business expert will tell you, the key to a successful business is “location, location, location.”  With a writer the key is “words, words, words.”  Therefore, the first “secret” to increase the clarity of your writing is to develop a powerful vocabulary.   A strong vocabulary’s influence on successful writing is unquestionable.  Writing your first draft (or any draft for that matter) should be considered as an excellent opportunity to continue your vocabulary building process.  Strive to use all new words you have learned to fully express your thoughts.

The breadth and depth of your vocabulary will have a direct influence upon the descriptiveness, accuracy, quality, and clarity of your writing.  Any written communication is vastly more effective when a depth of vocabulary is evident.

           There are Important Steps You Can  Take to Develop Your Vocabulary

These following steps may appear obvious but are nevertheless time-tested and reliable:

1.  Become a language junkie.  Because words definitely matter, begin building your vocabulary by becoming a wordsmith.  Learn the specific words necessary to clearly express yourself.  Otherwise, you’re batting with two strikes against you.  To write clearly and compellingly, you need to know the exact words that are essential in crystallizing your  thoughts and how to use them.

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 that word.  There may be additional synonyms for the word available in a thesaurus.  Use the Word processing 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 for the sake of definition only, without any context, the meaning will not be retained.  Try to use each new word in your conversation so that it won’t seem 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.

4.  Finally, read good books, as well as newspapers, magazines, periodicals, etc., extensively, whether online or hardcopy.  This is also an excellent approach to creating an improved vocabulary, not only in terms of learning new words, but in learning new applications of words already known.  Winston Churchill, an accomplished writer and historian, 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 an unforgettable experience in the use of words to create an impact on the reader.  His excellent, in-depth command of the English language is immediately evident from the folloiwing passage:

“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.”  Marlborough, His Life and Times, 33, Winston S. Churchill, University of Chicago Press, 1947.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, clearly emphasized the importance of reading.  “If you don’t have the time to read you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.  It’s as simple as that…”

Because words are a writer’s most important tool, acquisition and application of an effective vocabulary should be considered an immediate and ongoing challenge.  You will find that a strong vocabulary will help lead to clear writing and improved opportunities for  employment and advancement.

Copyright© 2013 Arnold G. Regardie





Leave a comment

Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.