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Vocabulary -- Important?

by Ken Nelson 

When it comes to writing easy to read articles, is it important to have an extensive vocabulary? The answer is an ambivalent yes and no.

On the one hand, you want to write an article that is accessible to everyone. If someone has to struggle through a morass of obscure vocabulary, it could distract them from the valuable content of the article. It is often best to choose the simplest, clearest words to express your thoughts. Instead of “eschewing obfuscation”, you should “avoid confusion”.

However, there are three good reasons to invest in building your vocabulary:

People Judge You by the Words You Use

I know this is the catch-phrase of a popular vocabulary building program, but it is nonetheless true. Especially when you move into the professional realm, it’s important to have an impressive vocabulary at your disposal. Not only so you can use the words yourself, but also so that you can understand the vocabulary of your contemporaries. You don’t want to be the person who is constantly asking, “What’s that word mean?”

Plain is Boring

The problem with a limited vocabulary is that your options are limited if you want to say something with a little pizazz. An inadequate command of the language lends itself to low brow redundancy, and this can reflect poorly on your credibility as an author. A good vocabulary gives you the ability to express yourself with confidence and flair, and that’s the kind of article people want to read! This leads right into the third and final point . . .

Kiss My Arsenal

Having a great vocabulary is like having a vast arsenal at your disposal. You may not always need to pull out the big guns, but it’s nice to know they’re in the closet if you need them. Suppose you want to say that the big job you’ve been assigned is difficult. You could say, “The job is big and difficult.” This sentence is to the point, but dull and uninspiring. Or you could say, “The task is arduous and intimidating.” Interesting. Or how about, “The assignment is Brobdingnagian in nature and presents a redoubtable undertaking.” Pompous and difficult to read. The point is, there are many different ways to say the same thing, but they are only available if you know the words.

Improving your vocabulary is not a “Brobdingnagian and redoubtable undertaking”. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. And the rewards for the writer are great.

Ken Nelson is a freelance writer and cartoonist. He markets his unique brand of humor at the Flogwear site where anybody can purchase t-shirts, mugs, aprons, calendars, and many other items printed with his cartoons and writings.

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