Today’s Writing Tip

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Words are an author’s tools of the trade. Expanding your vocabulary is important for mastering your skill.

If you’ve ever watched the popular TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”, you have probably seen one of Sheldon and Amy’s episodes of “Fun with Flags.” Well, here’s an author’s variation on that I’ll call “Fun with Words.”

I do have an ulterior motive, however. An expansive vocabulary opens up a world unseen; one that’s inaccessible without the words to express it. I’m one of those crazy people who will occasionally read the dictionary. I swear I’m not making this up. Besides, if I look up a word, I always read several other definitions while I’m in there. My dictionary is within arm’s reach whenever I’m on the computer, notwithstanding the availability of a spellchecker. Old habits die hard.

Another book of words that I found charming, as it brought me numerous laughs as well, is “The Superior Person’s Book of Words” by Peter Bowler. This book contains many words that have been dropped from the conventional dictionary for lack of use or no longer applicable. However, if you’re an Anglophile, you can have a tremendous amount of fun discovering words you didn’t know existed, many of which have hilarious definitions.

Bowler’s premise is that baffling people with unfamiliar words makes you superior, reinforcing the idea of vocabulary and intelligence being related. Furthermore it’s useful for insulting people in such a way they don’t recognize a slam for what it is and will often even thank you. There’s even a name for that:

Charientism n., An elegantly veiled insult.

Words are the tools of my trade. I value them, but also find them entertaining. Here are a few more from Bowler’s book:

hebetate v. To grow dull or stupid.

rejectamenta n. Things that have been rejected.

lucripetous a. Money-hungry.

acerebral a. Without a brain.

gerontocracy n. Government by old men.

virago n. A fierce, bad-tempered woman.

You have to admit, if you were in 5th grade and given such words to use in a sentence that it would be tremendous fun. Even as an adult, I’m sure you can think of numerous circumstances where having such words on the tip of your tongue would have come in handy.

Finding humor in words not only makes expanding your own vocabulary a blast, but is a way to encourage youth to do so as well. Even kids in elementary school can have fun in this way, a discovery that could make a difference in their appreciation of language for the rest of their life.

Try it–you’ll like it.

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Today’s Writing Tip

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Always check your manuscript for over-used words and phrases, such as: so, just, in order to, therefore, or any of your personal favorites. It’s easy to fall in love with a newly discovered word, then use it so much it annoys your readers. Some of the words I’ve seen over-used are ubiquitous, baleful, and humongous. You’re probably not even aware of this on the first draft, so put it on your list as something to look for when you start to edit. Once you discover your favorite, learn all its synonyms so you can replace it with ease.

Today’s Writing Tip

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When you encounter a word you don’t know, look it up! It may be just the one you’ll need later. Words are a writer’s tools. Having a vast vocabulary is key to expressing yourself clearly and easily. Reading the dictionary is often an interesting pastime to a true writer.

Today’s Writing Tip

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Increase your vocabulary on a regular basis. Subscribe to services that provide a word of the day or even read the dictionary. You’d be surprised the cool words you’ll find! This is not to say that you should be using $5 words galore, but stimulating a reader with a new word occasionally, preferably when its meaning can be derived from the context, is part of being a professional author.