One of the great joys of writing in the English language is the immensity of the vocabulary. 600,000 words and counting!
With its roots embedded in the Latin languages – French, Italian, Spanish – and Germanic languages (apparently, very early English sounded a lot like modern-day Flemish), English has a huge database of words at our disposal.
This vocabulary, unlike many other languages, isn’t static either. The list of words is growing, and new words are added to the English dictionary every year – words like sexting, voluntourism, freegan, fratty, hyperlocal, and pageview.
Which is just fantastic for any wordsmith. Call me a nerd (I’ve actually been called a lot worse, words that probably aren’t yet in the dictionary!), but I love my dictionary. I actually have two, because I love my thesaurus as well. If I could put a leash on them and take them for a walk, I would.
I actually get a thrill out of learning a new word. When I read a book and happen upon a word I don’t know the meaning of, I look it up in my trusty Macquarie Dictionary. If I particularly like the word, it gets jotted down in my notebook for use in my next book.
I’ve discovered great words like ostensible, effete, anchorite, prognosticate, soliloquize, supercilious, plangent, coquette, and turpitude. I have hundreds more that I’ve accumulated over the past 20 or so years, words that I often revisit (because if I don’t, I forget what they mean).
And, yes, I do have my favourites. Punctilious is one of them. Verisimilitude is another. So is execrable.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what they mean; you’re in the same boat as I once was. I just looked them up in a dictionary, liked what I saw, and then jotted them in my notebook.
Which brings me to the contemporary notebook that exists today. Thanks to the internet and all its wonders, we don’t have to carry a heavy dictionary loaded with tens of thousands of words (and still growing). We can just look up online any word we want to know the meaning of.
There are many online dictionaries, but the one I use mostly is The Free Dictionary.
Not only is it extremely user-friendly, they even email you a ‘word of the day’ straight to your inbox. So every day you get to improve your vocabulary – for free! What more does a writer need?
That’s not all. The Free Dictionary also has a great grammar and thesaurus section. Need to know what an appositive is? Or an appellation? Don’t know the best use of a colon or semi-colon? You’ll find the answer there.
So, as writers, one way to improve your writing is to increase your vocabulary.
It’s easier than you think
*This article first appeared on ContentPlexus.com and is re-published with permission.
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