When I was a youngster my Dad, in his infinite wisdom, decided to tackle two concerns at once. Whenever I got in trouble he’d pull out his trusty dictionary, select a page, then have me write out the word, the meaning, and a sentence using the word in the proper context.
This form of punishment culminated in an excessively large vocabulary. I’m also a great speller too. As a teenager I had believed that utilizing my extensive vocabulary made me appear smarter, better educated. As a writer it allows me to capitalize on the benefits of this vocabulary too.
Okay, now I’ll stop showing off.
The reason I’m mentioning all of this is because the nuances (last time, promise) of the English language has a tendency to cause one of two things to happen, especially in writing.
1. They don’t read it
2. The skip around the word they don’t know.
Not many know what the big words mean. The reason is due to not needing to use them in general conversation. To be honest, saying “I know a lot of words” as opposed to “My vocabulary is excessively large” is a hell of a lot faster … and easier. In a society that’s about hurry, hurry, hurry, it’s important to keep in mind the basic needs when it comes to writing.
But what does that mean for writer’s whose general profession lives within vocabulary? It means we have to bridge the gab between what we know and what our readers enjoy, especially fiction writers of any genre. Sure, we want them to think. To feel motivated to go hmm, but to do that we have to keep our use of vocabulary a mix between the basics and the excessive.
As for me, I have learned how to simplify how I speak. I do so to lessen the frequency of defining the word(s). Does that mean I don’t use the big words at all? No, they still slip in, mostly due to wanting to get my kids to think, ask, and learn while stretching their own vocabulary.
Oh, and my daughter is also benefiting from the use of my own trusty dictionary. Isn’t tradition grand???
- Expanding Your Vocabulary in English (oupeltglobalblog.com)
- Learning of English Words (ivythesis.typepad.com)