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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Four steps to learning vocabulary effectively

This article provides useful, clear advice on increasing your vocabulary--and I encourage the effort. Increasing our vocabularies enhances our understanding of the things we read and the things we hear. It also can enhance the things we write and say.

My website, Garbl's Writing Resources Online, includes a Vocabulary section on the Words page that provides links to other sites for enhancing vocabulary. I'm sure there are other good sites not listed there. 

But, I'd like to add a "but" to the value of learning new words and their meanings. Increasing our vocabularies helps us use words that, perhaps, are more precise in the meaning of something we're trying to understand or express. 

But, when we're writing, we must think carefully about the readers we're trying to reach. Will they understand the precise but perhaps uncommon or less familiar word we're using? Will that precise meaning make any difference to our readers? If our readers don't "get" it, will using it benefit us as writers? 

So, consider using that increased vocabulary of yours as a writer or speaker. But please don't use unfamiliar words or long multi-syllable words for their own sake. And especially don't use the jargon of your profession or special interest if your main audience is not likely to be familiar with it. 

Or, if you do use that larger vocabulary in those situations, either define it right upfront or along the way--or use it in a context that explains it clearly. 

For more information on communicating clearly, check out my Garbl's Concise Writing Guide and Garbl's Plain-English Writing Guide

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