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16

Reading is probably the best way, but there are a few others that have worked for me. One way is to keep a dictionary handy. From time to time, pick a random word, learn how to pronounce it, and write it in a sentence or two. You can use a thesaurus in a similar manner. When you find words you like, add them to a journal (print or text). Refer to the ...


11

Whenever you encounter a word you do not know, write it down (in that little notebook that you of course always keep on you, as all good writers should). When you get home, look it up. It could also be useful to write down who said/wrote it, and in what context. Then you will not only learn a new word, but you will also have a setting in which it is used, ...


10

Isn't one of the non-Rowling definitions of "squib" "a firecracker which doesn't explode"? So Rowling took something which means "has potential or is expected to do something, and fails to deliver," and used it for slang in a very appropriate way. As I've said elsewhere, copy the work ethic, not the end result. Find or invent some other term which implies ...


8

Speaking from personal experience, probably the best way to improve your vocabulary is by studying a foreign language, as many languages borrow vocabulary from each other. One of the most difficult tasks when trying to find that "perfect word" is knowing where to start looking, and knowing (for example) Latin, French, or German synonyms can help when ...


6

One method I like to use to remember new words, or at least words I'd like to use more often, is to write them into sentences. So I'll take a word I want to dredge out from the depths of my mind (or a dictionary) and write 10 sentences that use the word in various contexts. It's easier to recall when you use it for yourself, in contexts you've constructed ...


6

Well, let's start... Specifically, this post You just lost us. "This post" often means "an external piece to which I am linking" or "some text which is going to follow shortly," rather than "this question you're reading." is a piece of text submitted for critique and, in addition, explains what I am trying to achieve. Redundant, but okay in ...


5

Good morning XXX, I wanted to touch base with you about the status of your article for the newsletter. Please advise whether you will be able to send it to me by the end of the week. If it doesn't work with your schedule, that's fine; I just need to know one way or the other for planning purposes. Thanks! Regards, [your name]


5

(Note: The current edit of this post fixes some of these issues.) Clarity of objectives It's unclear, exactly, what you want people to critique; the way the post is written implies that there will be text other than the question and the question's title, and that this text is what you want people to critique. The body of your question is laying the ...


5

In addition to the reading or using a dictionary or thesaurus, you can also look at various Words of the Day. Depending on what you are reading, these may expose you words you may otherwise not encounter. A quick Google Search for 'word of the day' showed sites like Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, WordThink, NY Times, The Quotations Page, and ...


5

Pay attention to the origins of your words. English is a confirmed pack-rat language--an enthusiastic, perhaps obsessive, collector and creator of new words. Take, for example, the word "large." Unsatisfied with just the one comparative, English has a whole platoon of others in reserve: immense, vast, capacious, bulky, massive, whopping, humongous. Like ...


5

The Phrontistery (another good word) is a good site for vocabulary. The fellow who keeps it claims to have come across all of these words in his own reading, but omits ones that he considers needlessly obscure, specialised, etc.. He lays out his criteria on the first page. Notice that you have to click at the letters at the top or bottom to go to a list. It ...


5

You are talking about oversimplification or misrepresentation. I think oversimplification is probably the best choice to replace reduce, but you would have to alter the construction of the sentence slightly to make it work. For example, "Oversimplifying social problems by attributing them to bad media influence on disturbed kids is basically ignoring the ...


4

The best way to expand your vocabulary is to read a lot of books with unfamiliar words in them, experiencing them in context. However, there are ways to make this easier: Seeking out relatively modern authors who have a reputation for using their rich vocabularies well in-context will make these words' meanings at least somewhat plain. (Gene Wolfe is my ...


4

There's a big difference between using a fancier word when a simpler one will do (which can be unnecessarily pretentious, something that commenters have exhorted you to avoid), and using a more precise word that more accurately captures the nuances of what you are trying to say. Based on your edit and your replies, I suspect the words you wish you were using ...


4

Ok, you might say that my answer is a wee bit off-topic because I'm not recommending a list--well, I SORT OF am, but my first and best recommendation is that reading news articles of interest by paid journalists (not bloggers!) along with fiction by highly literary writers (ex, Nabokov, Fowles, etc) will do more to help you gain vocabulary than messing with ...


4

I've moved to mostly e-reading on the Kindle and Nook apps on my iPhone/iPad. My wife uses her Android, and even my son has an old iTouch he uses. All of us have learned to use the built in dictionary, so as soon as you're not sure of a word's meaning, you click it, get the definition, and learn something. The more I do this, the more I find that I can ...


3

You can cheat around it by just changing the words, but, really, you're still borrowing pretty heavily from someone else's universe just by using the concepts. Are they absolutely necessary? Is there some way you could come up with your own unique (or at least, somewhat less derivative) ideas of magic? I'm not commenting on the legality or even the ...


3

I'll offer some blunt advice that I've given my own grad students over the years. Be direct. Make it easy for readers to see the main points you're trying to convey. (I think the main parts of your question are that you're a Ph.D. student whose advisor thinks your writing needs improvement, and you're asking for comments about style and understandability.) ...


2

I heartily endorse and strongly reject your key assertion. I can't picture Nabokov sitting there looking up synonyms, nor do I believe that it's a habit any aspiring writer should make heavy use of. My ambivalence relates to the key distinction of WHEN the thesaurus comes into play. It is not a tool to interrupt composition, but does have a central ...


2

Setting aside debate over the merits of particular words (which no one should be contesting without knowing the context of your writing), making explicit word lists helps work words into my vocabulary. By a word list I mean actually writing down or otherwise capturing the words in some way. My method is to write down the word, check out the etymology and, ...


2

It may have been written in the mid 1980's but the setting is the in the mid 1800's - you really should expect some archaic, unusual and unfamiliar words in any book set in that timeframe. Particularly so if the dialogue is intended to accurately reflect that of colloquial speech of the time. Your primary question can be answered in one word: research. Any ...


2

It depends what you mean by 'archaic'. For a wider cultural reference to Archaic England, see Harold Bayley's Archaic England. Halliwell's dictionary covers 14th century usage, and is particularly good on dialects. It references other works which you may find useful for other periods. Sweet's work is Anglo-Saxon in focus. There are several region-specific ...


2

The sheer number of pronouns did not bother me as I read. My only pronoun problem was with the first paragraph, where your pronouns (she, he, and they) are plenteous enough and far enough away from their nouns to become a bit confusing. I would advise replacing the first paragraph "they" with a noun of some kind, preferably a word that lets you avoid using ...


1

I've just written a story of around 7000 words that I set in 1611, in a monastery, so wanted to use the old English terms of the day, like 'ye, thou, thee, etc.' Gaining familiarity with these terms was only done by looking at lots of information about it, and repeating the phrases like 'Where art thou" to make it more familiar to myself, and therefore ...


1

You know that you have an important question when your topic already has a recognised acronym NDW. However it is typically used in the medical field rather creative writing. It appears to have arisen from the rehabilitation of patients with brain injury such as stroke. The University of Albert Department of Linguistics has a fairly extensive discussion on ...


1

I have FOUR thoughts on this: Nabokov did a lot of research, sketching etc. It wouldn't surprise me if he used a thesaurus. Writing is not effortless. A wide vocabulary is useful - so good for you. You should keep things simple and clear though. For me the ONLY way to remember things (new words included) is USE them. Either write them or speak them. Then ...


1

I have a small contribution to the excellent advice already offered.... When possible, read your work aloud. If you stumble over a phrase or sentence, so will your readers. Reading aloud reinforces where the pauses should be, for clarity and emphasis, because you'll need to take a breath occasionally, unlike when you read silently. Best of luck!


1

You cannot be a writer if you don't write so the only way to learn how to write is write something. You can start by keeping a journal or a blog or both. You might be wondering what's the difference between the two and why I am suggesting both. Living in a technology-driven world, these two terms might be synonymous. But just to be clear, blog is an online ...


1

Not exactly a word list, but Vocabulary.com can handle word lists (which its users create and share) and its dictionary is quite good. Its approach to word lists isn't the conventional flash-cards type but I liked it, have had success using it for several month now, and can recommend it if for nothing but the fact that they always present the words in ...



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