english vocabulary

There is nothing lovelier, when reading a piece of writing, than finding that the writer has a vast and varied vocabulary. Ideas, colours, sounds and feeling leap off the page and drag you right in there and don't let go until the end of the last paragraph - and sometimes they still hang on like dogs to a bone.

When a writer uses vocabulary like an artist's palette, amazing things happen. The reader (you) is engaged and hooked. You stick with it. You follow that writer's thread to the very end because you're interested. You're seduced by the language.

All writers read, or at least, we need to read. We need to read everything. Adverts. Newspapers. Novels. Journals. Online websites. Reference books. We read because we want to know things, we want to expand what we know, we want to increase our fund of words. We need to be reading every day and immersing ourselves in whatever we can find - it's the best way there is of honing our language and using exactly the right words to say what we mean.

Image: Morguefile

The more we read the better we are at deciding what works and what doesn't. What makes a piece of writing leap off the page and what doesn't. And we'll know when we're writing whether we're just being lazy and using cliches and stock phrases, or whether we're making every word earn its keep on the page.

We don't have to spring about and do handstands and show how clever we are (Oh look at me! I used a long word! Go me!) or use the most obscure words we can find to describe the simplest of things. But we can use a different shade of meaning and give the reader a richer experience of what it is we're saying.

That doesn't mean either that we get a big jar of adjectives and adverbs and tip them all into the pot. That's as pointless as using long words and about as effective as eating garden peas with a ditch digger. What are you, some kind of crazy person?

Would you rather your readers were satisfied after a full meal and looking forward to the next one - or gnawing on half a crust of dry bread and looking round for a better menu ..
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