Tag Archives: vocabulary

Words and Reason: Hear Ye, Hear Ye

by Cynthia Clampitt

Cynthia Clampitt
Cynthia Clampitt

It is unlikely that any of you have ever heard Old English (and, to be honest, it’s not highly likely that loads of you have even heard Middle English, unless you studied Chaucer in school). Most people are surprised to learn that Shakespeare was writing in Modern English, but that’s what it was. However, as you’re probably aware, a few things have changed since the bard’s day.

One thing that makes a big difference is the change in the size of the working vocabulary of the general population. Shakespeare’s vocabulary ran around 25,000 words (though I’ve seen higher estimates), while the average vocabulary of English speakers today ranges between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Granted, there are some of us who collect words as if they were gold, but that is becoming less common.

Pity that working vocabularies are so low today, as English is a wildly rich language. Because it in essence merged two languages (Anglo-Saxon and French, after the Norman Conquest in 1066), and has since that time adopted words freely from languages around the world, it has vastly more words than any other language—something like three times as many words as our nearest competitor, German.

English is an amazing language, evolving and absorbing words: kangaroo, pecan, rodeo, pajama, shampoo, kimono, chipmunk, safari, barbecue, and thousands more. However, some of the evolution in modern English makes it harder to understand what one is reading, even when reading things written as recently as the first half of the 20th century.

Today, I thought I’d share a couple of things that could help you if you’re visiting England or if you’re reading anything written a while back (in some cases, that includes anything before about 1970). Continue reading Words and Reason: Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Today’s Writing Tip Is about Expanding Your Vocabulary

Indefatigable… pristine… eviscerate… antithetical… arduous… enervating. What do these words have in common? We don’t see them that often.

An excellent way to improve your vocabulary and your writing is to read, read, and read some more. That way you’ll learn new words and you will also see how certain things look in print; this is particularly good for writing dialogue and punctuation.

Choose things that interest you. If you don’t like fiction, read nonfiction. If books take too much time, pick up a magazine or follow a blog dealing with a topic you really like. Or listen to a book on audio on your iPod or on CD in your car.

Don’t turn it into homework, but do find a way to incorporate new words into your daily or weekly routine.

Learn more about word usage in my third book, Be Your Own Editor. When should you use between or among, further and farther, or complement and compliment? Find out in BYOE, available on Amazon.com in print and now a bestseller on Kindle. (http://tinyurl.com/4v249th)

Resource: WordSpy

by Catherine L. Tully

Today just a quick resource for you vocabulary junkies out there…

WordSpy is a site that will keep you up-to-date on all the latest words being added to our language. Examples include “neurocinematics” and “pajamahadeen”.

This is a fun site with plenty to keep you occupied–just make sure you don’t get so caught up that you neglect your writing...

You can check out the top 100, or search posts by category or date. And if you’re interested, there is also a book. However you choose to consume it–it’s a good read.

Plus, you just might learn something.

Word Warriors

wordwarriors-logo_biggerby Catherine L. Tully

Wayne State University has a little gem of a web page that I stumbled across the other day called “Word Warriors“. It lists a “word of the week” that you can check out to keep expanding your vocabulary. I heard once that the average person stops learning new words at age 23. Not sure if that is true–but it scared me! Now I actively seek out ways to keep expanding my cache of words–and this is a great resource to do it with.

Oh–and they are on Twitter and Facebook too.

Invest In Yourself


After looking at Joe’s post on improving your writing, I got to thinking about the fact that as a writer, it is easy to get lazy. Pressing deadlines or the search for more work can easily take priority over polishing and refining your writing skills. I would have to argue that to let this happen is a serious mistake. Investing in yourself is just as important as anything else in this field.

What does “investing in yourself” mean? Tightening your prose. Memorizing new vocabulary. Improving your grammar. Ask yourself–when is the last time that you spent some time doing these things? If you aren’t sure, or you don’t do them on a regular basis; now’s the time to get going. All writers should be aware of what they are a little weak on in terms of writing. Spend a bit of time shoring it up–you’ll be glad you did in the long run!