13

This question already has an answer here:

I wanted to write something for a long time. But what I think is, in writing the choice of words plays a very significant role. From where I can learn this thing?
I think I don't have enough words in my active vocabulary to write what I feel or want to write.

marked as duplicate by Galastel, Chenmunka, JP Chapleau, Cyn Aug 15 at 14:29

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 3
    You can learn words by reading a lot of them , read any article and novel , reading will improve your words knowledge. – ᴀʀᴍᴀɴ Dec 26 '17 at 10:37
  • 1
    I have heard some podcasts about symbolism and semi-otic. There is also a book called "The Trivium" that talks a lot about words and their meanings. I think I gonna share one of my annotations of that book over here. – Hanilucas Dec 26 '17 at 11:30
  • 1
    Obligatory TVTropes link: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AuthorVocabularyCalendar – Mark Dec 26 '17 at 18:36
25

Read, read, read, read. The only way to learn words is to ingest them, to feed on them. The only place where to look is books.

Read a lot of different authors, styles, genres, ages. The more words and expressions you put in your head, the more you can use them in your writing.

Every time I wrote something, I realized I was heavily influenced by the things I was reading at a time. Back in high school, when studying the italian romantic age, I started speaking like those 19th century guys, because I was reading so much of them!

While writing is mostly a matter of practice, you need fuel to do it well, and that is taken from other authors.

  • 3
    Incidentally, when reading, it can often be better to avoid looking up a new word right away, and instead to wait till its meaning becomes clear. (This works if the new word count is low enough that you can still figure out what's going on.) – Luke Sawczak Dec 27 '17 at 14:01
  • 1
    Read only the title, and the word "Read" just popped right into my head. Since this answer did me x4, that's a +1. – T.E.D. Dec 27 '17 at 15:51
  • And when you've read a lot of different authors, pick an author you like and read all it's major works. Your style is influenced by it's style and should influence yours positively. – Mast Dec 27 '17 at 16:11
  • @LukeSawczak YES! Very good point. – FraEnrico Dec 27 '17 at 17:36
9

Also, write, write, write.

As you write a new word in appropriate context, you are putting it into your working vocabulary.

Don't discount a thesaurus.

There are some online.

You have ideas, and you can articulate your ideas. Let's say you have a character that needs to go to a particular place. You might have a good idea in your mind of what that place is, but perhaps you are struggling to find the right words.

"Lorenzo went to the place."

But that's too simplistic. How did he go? Where? He drove. To the lake. But you want something more precise, or slightly less simplistic. Here's where a thesaurus can come in handy.

Look up synonyms for drive online (just type 'drive synonym' into google.). If you actually do this - you'll see a ton of information about the word 'drive', and you will come away not only with an alternative word for drive but also a much wider understanding of all the ways the word can be used, and its roots (etymology).

From that exercise, let's use 'motored.'

Now, look up synonyms for 'lake.' (Same exercise as above.) I see a word I haven't used before - 'tarn.' It means a small mountain lake (defined on google.).

"Lorenzo motored to the tarn."

^^That's a very different image than the first one.

Through this exercise you can expand your vocabulary and also increase your facility with the words you already know.

The only caveat I'd add here is to avoid using fancy words if you don't need them.

Don't say "he motored to the tarn' just because it sounds unusual. The point is to find the right word and the best word, and to practice using words.

As you read, and practice writing, it all gets stronger and better, like peddling a two-wheeled conveyance.

  • 3
    It is important to be VERY careful with thesaurus use. I remember reading Eragon and thinking "Gosh, this guy kept looking up random words in a thesaurus to sound fancy but clearly has no idea how to properly use them." Suffice to say: it CAN be very helpful to look up a synonym, it CAN also come across as a sad effort to sound extra fancy. – BunnyKnitter Dec 27 '17 at 15:44
  • @SnyperBunny +1 Yes, but the question is increasing one's vocabulary. How to use the vocabulary is a different matter! :-) – DPT Dec 27 '17 at 16:42
  • I've also used the thesaurus (and dictionary) useful for the opposite purpose. (to eliminate a word choice or narrow down a selection of words.) Sometimes I have a word I like, want to use, think it fits in a sentence and then look up the thesaurus/ dictionary and find out nope, not the right word to use. – BugFolk Dec 30 '17 at 20:32
4

You didn't mention what you wanted to write.

Do you want to write a novel? Is it fiction, sci-fi, horror, comedy, satire?

Do you want to write a poem? Is it a sonnet, an ode, a haiku? Is it freeform?

Do you want to write a paper? Is it for school? Is it to be published in a journal? Does it cover matters pertaining to physics, engineering, biology, chemistry?

Do you want to write a screenplay? TV, movie, theater, or other?

Do you want to write lyrics? Is it a love song, or an anti-war ballad? Is it jazz, rock, pop, grunge? Do you want it to rhyme?

What you want to write should influence your research material. If I wanted to write a sci-fi novel, I'd start with reading some Card, some Asimov, some Heinlein, and some Herbert*. If I wanted to write technical papers, I'd find the peer-reviewed journals of the field and read their works.

IMPORTANT

This is not to say that there isn't any crossover. Just because a word is used in a Michael Crichton novel doesn't mean that it doesn't belong in a technical paper.

Researching what's popular and what YOU like in your chosen field, in addition to any other fields in which you're interested, might make your search more fruitful.

Finally, to piggy-back off another answer, "Lorenzo went to the place" might be the precise phrase you need; the images that appear in my mind are

1) Someone struggling to unsuccessfully remember the details of Lorenzo's activities, perhaps due to intoxication or fatigue. 2) Communicating with a preoccupied teenager. 3) 1940s gangster trying to convey information to another party fully aware of what "the place" is and why Lorenzo is going there while trying to remain discreet.

Just because something, at first glance, sounds overly flowery or overly simple doesn't mean that it's wrong.

*The mention of these specific authors does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of their suitability to serve as inspiration to influence the lexicon of an aspiring writer, but simply reflects their popularity and/or the prolific nature of their work(s).

OR

Just 'cause I mentioned these folks in my example right here don't mean that they be the best persons to read when yer tryin' to brush up on yer book-learnin'; it just means that some folks think their stuff be perty special.

  • Welcome to Writers SE! Thank you for taking the time to writte this. You don't have enough reputation yet, but usually the list of questions at the start of your answer should be asked in comments. – Babika Babaka Dec 26 '17 at 21:11
  • 2
    The questions are rhetorical; I'm using them to get the OP to understand that a person trying to write a love song needs to do different research than a person trying to write an IEEE technical paper. – John Doe Dec 26 '17 at 21:16
  • Ah okay, sorry I read your answer too fast. – Babika Babaka Dec 26 '17 at 21:17
3

A few further tips:

  • Be careful not to overuse obscure synonyms for common words. It can be a lot more distracting than using the common word. The most important way to expand your vocabulary is to learn words that convey things you couldn't before. The second most important is to ensure you don't confuse words that sound or look similar.
  • If you get synonyms from a thesaurus, look up the original words and suggested synonyms in a dictionary, as often the meanings are subtly different, and you'll either choose not to use the synonyms or reword the sentences to make uses of them proper.
  • If you're convinced two words are genuinely interchangeable in terms of meaning and obscurity, take into account rhyme, rhythm and other measures of suitability. For example, words with a lot of Ss help make a character or setting seem more unsettling because of the association with snakes. Steven Pinker has noted that "pulchritudinous" means beautiful but sounds more like it means something insulting, which makes it almost always unsuitable. (Still, a character could use the word in an effort to compliment that backfires, which may speak volumes.)
  • There are contexts where a limited vocabulary is worthwhile or even necessary, such as in a child's narrative or when a character addresses someone young or uneducated, or because of a character's background or setting (be mindful of how dissimilar dialogue should be from one's narration), or if your intended audience is young.
  • Some authors are famous for making a limited vocabulary work, such as Ernest Hemingway. Read such people to see what they do. Plus, ironically, you might just learn a new word from them anyway, or at least learn to use a word you never would have thought to.
3

The only thing you can do is to read and write, but reading will help the most. In order to learn something, you need to keep it in your head. Say you're learning piano. You need to keep learning new songs, each one getting challenger so that you learn more, and remember it.

2

One way to expand your vocabulary (in my opinion it's kinda plain) you could just read a 1 or 2 pages of the dictionary a day, OR you can just read some good books. Books that got really famous. For example the hunger games. Since it has lots of action going on, there is a lot of description describing what is happening. That, you can learn lots of descriptive words. Read read read and write write write. Reading and writing will help you expand your vocabulary.

  • But reading pages of the dictionary could get boring, you'd want a motivation, which is the better vocabulary, but you'd want it to be more interesting. It's still a good idea though. – Sweet_Cherry Jan 6 '18 at 17:50
2

I keep a "Big Word Dictionary" to expand my vocabulary. Whenever I come across a fancy new word, I write it down. Every now and then I revisit this dictionary and see, if I could insert some of these words into my own writing.

One way to hunt down those beautiful new words, as others have pointed out, is to read. Additionally it doesn't hurt to browse the English language and usage stack Exchange. Another great resource is the Merriam Webster Website. They publish a word of the day every day, and usually those are real diamonds.

1

Just read and read. And try to write something if you learn new words . Read and write regularly would be the best option to improve vocabulary.

0

Spoken Language, or parlance, is usually a set of common words, phrases and intonations used by a group bound by certain unique qualities. If those binding qualities are a technical job, you might call that Jargon. But, every group gets it's own unique parlance from the unsophisticated group of four year olds to the jaded angst-ridden teenager all the way up to the rusting courts of elders.

Read books, yes. Write things, yes. Read thesaurus's yes.

But, to truly use the right words you have to understand the people who would use such words. If you want to write floury purple prose, read a lot of "literature." If you want window-pane prose where your characters speak authentically, then study people. Talk with them, and more importantly listen.

There are great libraries of the spoken word now, but you've got to listen and pay attention and parlance will change depending on who is speaking. If you know who your narrator is, then you'll also know which domain they're speaking from.

Improving your vocabulary is not just about ingesting large quantities of words, but also understanding how they are used. The definition matters, but the connotation often matters more. You can pick up some of this by reading, but you'll be playing telephone with someone in the past. If all you do is read and write, you'll ultimately miss the evolution or commit the mistakes of who you're ingesting. There are entire turns of phrases that are unique to literature that has been written based off of what was learned by consuming other literature. Eventually these games of telephone only make sense to those who are initiated into the genre; at some point, you have to go back to the well of the spoken word and re-ground yourself.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.