Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Fruition of Procuring a Reputable Vocabulary

If that title didn't make you scratch your head, than kudos to you! However, if you're like me who had to look up those words specially for this post, here's a translation:

The Joys of Having a Good Vocabulary

Every writer needs to have a good vocabulary in order to succeed with there creative endeavors. Why, you may ask, well your words are like colours of paint for an artist, or like thread for a weaver. Imagine if Monet only used black and white in his paintings? Or, if all fabrics were made from white cotton thread? First of all, Monet's paintings would be boring and wouldn't be displayed in art museums around the world, and second, we'd all be wearing the same white t-shirts. In short, these creations would be boring and unattractive. It's the same with your writing. If a writer only uses average words and plain language, than people won't be interested in their work and will get bored easily. Now that we know why it's important, what is good vocabulary and how can I get it, are the questions to ask.

What is Good Vocabulary?

Let's just start by defining vocabulary, so we're all on the same page. Your vocabulary is the words you hear, speak, read and write. If I need to define good, well let's just say you've got bigger fish to fry than this! Alright, so what does it mean to have a good vocabulary? Well I found this quote that describes my thoughts to a tee:

"A good vocabulary does not mean you know many long or difficult words. Instead, it means that you know how to express yourself so that the reader will understand your material" -Author
Often times I'm inclined to think that you have a good vocabulary if you know big and obscure words. The truth of the matter, like the quote points out, is that if you have good vocabulary then you can effectively express your thoughts in an interesting and engaging way. For example:

Bad: Penny was attired in a pallid repugnant muumuu.

Good: Penny was wearing a pale unattractive muumuu.

Although, the first sentence does make me, the writer, sound smarter, the reader can't understand it! I don't know about you, but I'd rather people understand my work than seem annoyingly smart. The second sentence was still interesting, but it was also understandable, which is the desired effect.

Regardless of what it may seem, it's okay, even good, to use big words. However, you must use them sparingly and appropriately. Let's go back to our examples for a moment.

Bad: Penny was attired in a pallid, repugnant muumuu.

How to use an uncommon word correctly: Penny was wearing a pallid, unattractive muumuu.

You see how I used one word (pallid) that was uncommon? It was still interesting language, but it wasn't over done or hard to understand, because the words around it allowed the reader to infer what it meant.

Summary: Using lots of uncommon, big words in a sentence is confusing for the reader. While using one or two uncommon words in a sentence is good. Having a good vocabulary means that you can communicate to your reader in an interesting and understandable way.

Now that we've got that figured out, let's move on.

How to Get a Good Vocabulary

1. Whenever you come across words that you aren't 100% sure of look them up. You'll most likely be able to figure out what it means by the sentence it's in, but look it up anyways so you can use it effectively in the future

2. Do word searches, crosswords and other word games. It's fun and you will learn new words, especially if you're playing game where you have to come up with words for a certain set of letters

3. Again, READ! Reading, like I've previously mentioned, is key to writing. Besides, how else do you think you're going to apply #1?

I could go on, but I think you get the picture, besides this post is already getting too long!


  1. This is some really good information!! :P

    It reminds me of having to take vocab quizzes in ap lang this year. It really forces you to learn new words.

    a strong vocabulary will definitely help your overall strength as a writer.

  2. I found this post to be very interesting! (:

  3. I'm sorry! I can't help that I always catch grammar mistakes...
    Here it is: "Why, you may ask, well your words are like colours of paint for an artist, or like thread for a weaver"
    It ought to be: "Why, you make ask? Well, your words are like colours of paint for an artist, or like thread for a weaver."
    I hope I helped. And a quick blog topic idea while we're on the subject: The importance of good grammar!
    (If I were to write the entry, I would make the point that it makes you a much more credible, much more respectable-looking writer. Not that you don't look that way to me; we all slip up sometimes! Never mind I'm just making this worse...)
    PS sorry if you already wrote a blog entry on it; I just now realized how to go through your archives and that's what I'm doing now.

  4. "Although, the first sentence does make me, the writer, sound smarter, the reader can't understand it."
    Should be
    "Although the first sentence does make me, the writer, sound smarter, the..."
    Please forgive me. You have to understand, I just can't help that I notice grammatical errors...

  5. I'm done fixing grammar errors. At least for this post. There were like three other ones but I doubt you care, anyway, lol. :) Nah, I'm just trying to help. Hopefully I don't sound annoyingly perfectionistic. (Although I must admit that I am.)
    Also, while I really enjoyed this entry, I tend to disagree with one point that you made: a good vocabulary IS knowing colorful language. Being a good writer is knowing how to apply it. I don't think that having a good vocabulary and knowing how to use it go hand-in-hand, as you suggested.
    However, I hate being a downer, so it's praise-time! I love the points you made, and you're right. You don't want to sound like a glaringly smart know-it-all and confuse your readers. It would be better to use NO big words and have your audience understand the scenario than to always use big words and impress but bore your audience! That is the key. And you voiced it well.
    Thank you for your insight, it was great! :)


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