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Importance of a Good Vocabulary in Writing

by Ron Kurtus (revised 8 March 2012)

Whether you are writing professionally, at work or for reports in school, you should have a vocabulary that will provide for clear communication of your ideas and thoughts.

You need to know the type and level of your audience and adjust your vocabulary accordingly. It is worthwhile to constantly work at improving your knowledge of words.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Don't need long words

Television commentator William S. Buckley has a tremendous vocabulary and would often overpower his debate opponents through the use of long words, whose definitions only highly literate people would know. He wouldn't win on logic of argument but on frustrating his opponents.

If the reader cannot understand the words, you may seem intelligent, but the message you are trying to deliver is lost. Modern day readers do not posses the vocabulary that people had in the previous generation. Studies have shown that high school students know only 2/3 of the words the average student knew 20 years ago.

Use caution with the words you employ to make sure the audience understands them.

Industry-specific words

Likewise, you must be careful when using industry-specific words. Each industry has its own special jargon and words they like to use. Sometimes those words have other meanings outside that industry or may seem meaningless to the average reader.

When writing for a special group, you can use their industry-specific words, but you still should include the real meanings. It is surprising the number of people within an industry who don't know the true meanings of their jargon.

Improving your vocabulary

Writers should love words. There are simple words and complex words. I will often use a dictionary to look up the meaning of a word I see or hear, as well as using a thesaurus to find alternate words. Even the simple thesaurus in your word processor is handy for this.

I feel that paying attention to words used around you is the best way to increase your working vocabulary. If you are really into improving the number of words you know, you can use such vocabulary-improvement lessons as are in the Reader's Digest.

Word games and crossword puzzles often help strengthen your mental vocabulary muscles.

Summary

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. Sometimes is it necessary to use industry-specific jargon, but you still must make sure everyone understands what you are writing. It is worthwhile to constantly work at improving your knowledge of words.


Use your writing abilities to help others understand


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

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Top-rated books on Fiction Writing

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Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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