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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Class » Good way to increase your vocabulary

   
Author Topic: Good way to increase your vocabulary
Khan
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I've found an awesome excercise for expanding vocabulary out of the every day usage.

Make the longest sentece you can using words that start with the same letter and follow as many grammatical rules as you can. Repeat this for every letter in the alphabet, yes including Q and Z though they won't be very long.

After a while, you'll find yourself using words you never though you knew.

Don't get frustrates and keep at it, use a dictionary and thesaurus if you have some time.

Just for the records, my longest to date is 28 words with the letter S.


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Survivor
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An ardently aggressive alpine ardvark and an allertly amoral Augusta alligator avidly ate an alienated albicore at an Athenian alter as an albatross accelerated across Arizona and...

Actually, this excercise can produce an indefinitely long sentence, using the letter A. B too, since it also has a connector word. Probably should include a rule against 'and', 'but', 'if', 'then', 'because', 'since', 'so', 'or', 'otherwise'...Hmmm. You know, it's an interesting exercise just to figure out all the words that can be used unfairly in this exercise.


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Khan
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you mispelled aardvark
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Survivor
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I misspelled 'altar' too.
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Shasta
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Play scrabble with my mother.

That will increase anyone's vocabulary.


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Survivor
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Or their body counts...
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Shasta
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Ah... you've played scrabble with my mom.

Here's another way of increasing word usage:

In your daily writing practice (journal, log entry, scrabble, sentence games) Write the same sentence as many different ways as you can... keep the implied meaning the same, but don't reuse any of the words (if you can help it).


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Rahl22
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I just saw this as I was rummaging through old and dying threads, and thought I'd inject a little pearl.

In his book, "On Writing", King mentions not trying to forcibly increase your vocab, as your writing will show that you're trying to show off all of your new words.

But, his advice or no, I find that the best way to increase your vocabulary is to just read incessantly.


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Kolona
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Rahl,
King was right, I think. Similarly when people misuse a thesaurus and force all kinds of words that have no natural feel to them into their writing.

In a fiction book I read as a child, I remember one of the characters saying something I thought was rather wise, that a word isn't "yours" till you've used it three times naturally in conversation--not purposely, but when it just "comes out."

That said, I still wonder why writers are always being told to expand their vocabularies and then admonished not to use big words when small ones will do.

One of my pet peeves is the lowering of the grade levels of books. It seems to me that if the publishing industry keeps pandering to an ever more infantile audience--reading level-wise--it's working itself out of a job. How soon before Dick and Jane invade Asimov and "I Robot" becomes "I am a Robot. I can walk and run"?

To me, the industry should be lifting the bar or at least keeping it in place. If a reader must consult a dictionary once in a while or deduce the meaning of a word from its context, so be it.

The dumbing down of America scares me.


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SiliGurl
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"King was right, I think. Similarly when people misuse a thesaurus and force all kinds of words that have no natural feel to them into their writing."

One of the best examples of this comes from Louise Cooper; don't know if she does this in all of her books, but in her series of books about Indigo, the heroine never ever ever had a problem. She always, exclusively had concondrums. Perfectly valid word, but damn! And this character never referred to a problem as a problem; "I have a concondrum... This is a mighty confusing concondrum." Who uses this word?

LOL. Anyway, sometimes simpler is better... a nickel word MAY be as effective as a word worth a dime, you know?


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JK
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"How do I increase my vocabulary?"
"Read."
Works for me.
JK

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Survivor
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Yes, also, a conundrum isn't the same as a problem. There is no implication that the solution to a conumdrum is important, just that the conundrum itself is puzzling. Riddle would be a better synonym for conundrum than problem.
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Betsy
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So, Survivor, should we math teachers teach "conundrum solving?" Or "riddle solving?"
Liz
PS in good fun, of course

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Balthasar
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Stephen King says not to consciously increase your vocabulary? Nonsense. The great British author, Evelyn Waugh, said, "One forgets words as one forgets names. One's vocabulary needs constant fertilization or it will die." And Hemingway once exhorted would-be authors to read the dictionary at least three times!

Thus, I recommend the following:

1. Pry $20 from your parsimonious palms and purchase Verbal Advantage by Charles Harrington Elster from Amazon.com and spend six months reading and rereading it.

2. Read broadly: read philosophy, theology, history, and literature. This is the best way to learn how to use words correctly, and how to use them with elegance.

3. Read with a dictionary. You can't always discern the meaning of a word from its context. For example, if you were to read, "After her exciting night on the town, she felt enervated," do you know what enervated means? If not, guess and then look it up.

By the way, if you havenít read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, you havenít lived.

[This message has been edited by Balthasar (edited August 29, 2002).]


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