Clear Writing Requires A Strong Vocabulary

There is extensive research indicating that a rich vocabulary is a critical element in reading ability, as reported by the Educational Resources Information Center. (ERIC). There is also a strong link between reading and writing. If the writing process is heavily dependent upon reading and reading is heavily dependent upon vocabulary, it is clear that writing is likewise dependent upon vocabulary.

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on Books and in print), I devote an entire chapter to the importance of vocabulary building to clear writing. I state there that “[v]ocabulary 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.”

My book continues to explain the importance of words. “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.

A powerful vocabulary at your disposal is not only necessary to write clearly and compellingly and to avoid dry, colorless prose, but the right words will enable you to become expressive and develop a flair for writing. Words are your most important writing tools to command the reader’s attention. Properly used, they are potent weapons of persuasion. 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.”

Examining the context in which words are used is also an effective way to increase your vocabulary. My book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” also points out that grammar can be learned by observing the context in which words are used, rather than memorizing rules:

“Memorization of grammar rules is of little use except to pass examinations. It has been my personal experience that as you train yourself to observe and appreciate good writing, you can likewise train yourself to develop and employ good writing habits in constructing sentences. This result cannot be accomplished by memorization of rules, which will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are used. But, when in doubt, look up the rule.

The best expression of thoughts through good grammar can be learned by observing the association of the right word with the appropriate context in a sentence. The emphasis should be on training your eye to carefully observe how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what you have learned in your writing. The point was well made many years ago by the late Sherwin Cody, who authored several books and self study courses on writing and learning good English. Learn grammar by “original processes”, he wrote, “not by authorities and rules.” (See: New Art of Writing and Speaking The English Language, 59, Sherwin Cody, 1933, 1938).

Clear writing can be achieved even if you are unable to apply grammatical labels to the various parts of speech contained in a sentence. Even if you can’t diagram a sentence to break out the parts of speech or if you don’t know a pronoun from an adverb, you can still learn to write clearly.

Studying the logical relationship of words in a sentence as you read is most important in learning the practical skills of word usage. In this way you need not concern yourself with the technical definition of, for example, weak or buried verbs, as long as your eye is practiced enough to pick them out of a sentence.

This level of writing ability can only be achieved through dedicated study and the continued practice of writing. The secret is practice, practice, practice and, also, read extensively. Read books, magazines, and newspapers to see how experienced writers put words and sentences together. This will help you develop the right “feel” for your writing.”

It is important to relate new words to your own knowledge and experiences in life. Conceptualize new words by attaching them to words and concepts you already understand. Don’t just memorize the new words because they will then have little meaning for you and will be easily forgotten. Practice and repetition in writing will help to solidify the new words in your understanding.

There can be no doubt that the breadth and depth of your vocabulary will have a direct effect on the quality of your writing. It will be manifestly more effective when the reader can see that you have a well-researched command of words.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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