Expanding vocabulary

The more words you know, the more clearly and powerfully you will think...and the more ideas you will invite into your mind.Wilfred Funk

The key to trying out new vocabulary is to avoid ‘flat-sounding’ and ‘boring’ words or phrases. These are words that are overused and that have lost their spark. They won’t stand out for or convince your reader. Keep in mind the need for liveliness in your writing as well as the need to create a sense that it is authentic and authoritative.

Plan your writing

The planning stage of your writing can be a useful stage to think about effective vocabulary. Keep in mind who you are writing for, what the genre requirements are and what you hope to achieve.

Review vocabulary choices

A colour chart with gradiations of green representing words becoming increasingly ambitious.

The best way to be sure you’ve used an effective vocabulary is not only to think about each sentence while you write but also to revise your work once it is complete. Change a few key words, especially where you find you’ve overused one particular word. Try to find alternatives – synonyms – that are livelier or fit better with the overall mood you are trying to achieve.

For example, writing ‘the weather was bad’ does not use specific vocabulary and won’t excite the reader. Using words that add detail, especially if this is a story, will help to suggest a mood and setting for the reader. Vague words deaden a piece of writing; precise words, full of descriptive energy, bring it to life.