Thursday, August 2, 2007

Knowing More Words Equals Better Writing

Knowing a wide variety of words helps good writers craft compelling stories. You don’t need a huge vocabulary of five-syllable words to write well but you do need a strong knowledge of language.

Short words with slightly different meanings give specifics that even a long or little-known word may not offer. If you can accurately choose, for example, between snobby, snotty, snarky, snippy, and snooty to describe someone’s tone of voice you add color to your characterization. All of them are shorter than cantankerous, and easier to spell as well.

Collect words as you read and talk to people. Listen to folks who come from different regions or countries and take note of words with which you are not familiar or that conjure a strong image. Use a thesaurus from time to time for relatively simple words to look for more interesting alternatives. The flow and strength of your writing benefit from selecting the right word rather than the most common.

The folks over at Capital Community College have a huge page on vocabulary building that offers not only tips on learning new words but links to sites with crossword puzzles, quizzes, and word-a-day sites. The vocabulary page comes as part of a larger grammar and writing guide filled with tips, tricks, and toys that are well worth a look.