Monday, March 30, 2015

Improve Your Writing With A Better Vocabulary

Writers, book marketers, publicists, editors, news media and so many key people in the communications industry rely on one thing to get their ideas, missions, visions, and information conveyed to another: WORDS.

Before you can do anything else, whether writing or speaking, we each must choose our words carefully.  There are ramifications for the words we select or omit, from legal and financial to political and military.  If one misunderstands another or misinterprets the intention of one’s statement, lives, money, and history could be on the line.  Words carry weight and meaning.  They are utterly important to a society that relies on words to defend truths, pursue justice, exonerate the innocent, damn the evil, earn a buck, or pay homage to the accomplished or deceased.

Unfortunately, the vocabulary of the average American is lacking.  Many don’t know the words that they should while others refrain from using the words they know for fear of them not being understood by others.  When we’re unable to let words flourish and allow for their artistry to take hold, we are reduced to mechanical utterances that serve function at its lowest, simplest level.  Words, however, could raise us to see, think, and feel beyond the world that exists in such concrete terms.  Language can be used not just to inform, but to inspire, enlighten, influence, and instill a special something inside each of us.  We need to grow our vocabulary in order to grow, period.

So what is a helpful tool for building one’s vocabulary?

First, commit to studying a certain number of words daily.  If you read the definition of just 10 words a day, you’ll expand your vocabulary by thousands of words by the time Christmas comes.  That’s no small feat.  Considering most people only call upon a few thousand different words through the year, this is huge.  Some people have working vocabularies in the tens of thousands of words, so even one who knows 30,000 words; to add 3,000 words this year is to raise the sum of their personal dictionary by 10%!

Second, make an effort to use newly learned words.  You don’ want them to be stated awkwardly or without context, but if the setting is right – be it business, personal, or in the practice of your craft –feel free to spend these newly acquired words.

Third, by increasing your reading time and diversifying the level of content and diversifying the subject matter, you’ll expose yourself to many new words while reacquainting yourself with words you have learned.

Fourth, play games with words, such as Scrabble, word searches, crossword puzzles, and select board games.  Not only does this delay dementia, it really helps in a fun way to build up your vocabulary.

On a recent visit to Barnes & Noble, on East 86th Street in Manhattan, I came across more than a dozen books in its cavernous reference section that promised the reader would learn new words quickly and easily.  There was 1000 Most Important Words by Norman Schur.  How can we determine what makes the cut and won’t be there? There is widespread disagreement on what’s included or excluded?  It contained words like torpid (slow, sluggish, dull), traduce (to slander and malign), and trenchant (forceful, incisive, effective).

For those who value short, easy-to-carry books, you’ll like Webster’s New World Pocket Vocabulary, where one can find words such as mercurial (volatile and given to changing moods suddenly), miasma (a noxious, dangerous, or unwholesome emission, atmosphere, or influence), and mordant (biting or stinging remark).

Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder shared over 3,500 words, including interstice (a little space between two things), interpolate (to put something between other things or parts), and undulant (rising and falling in waves).

Verbal Advantage also teachers 3,500 words, including parsimonious (stingy), meretricious (attractive in a flashy or cheap way), and sagacious (wise or shrewd).

Another book highlighted “specialized words everyone needs to know, called Think You Know Your Vocabulary?  It broke up the vocabulary lists based on subject matter, including musical, culinary, medical, mechanical, and scientific terms.  Words to be found here include denouement (the final revelation in a drama, in which everything becomes clear), coulomb (a unit of electrical charge), and languidly (in a lethargic manner).

The Big Book of Words You Should Know shares over 3,000 words “every person should be able to use (and a few that you probably shouldn’t”.  Words found inside its informative pages include abnegate (to renounce), aggrandize (raise the importance of), and eschew (to shun).

The book with some of the hardest, least-used words is 1500 Words in 15 Minutes A Day by Ceil Cleveland.  It featured words like yashmak (a veil worn by Moslem women), urceolate (a jug or pitcher that is urn-shaped), and syzygy (the configuration of the sun, moon, and earth lying in a straight line).

Some words may be more useful than others, but each of them is a potential tool to help you convey your thoughts, feelings, experiences, needs, visions, and desires.  Words are the currency of a world that lives 24/7 with its communication devices, and media.  There are no barriers to you learning more words and then using them.  It takes time, but not a lot, and it takes very little money (cost of a book – if you don’t get it form the library).  No excuses!  Go learn more words and you’ll be a better writer for it.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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