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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Do you need a bigger vocabulary in the workplace?

Chances are you are moaning about the size of your vocabulary.  Most people feel self- conscious about the size or limitations of their vocabulary, which is too bad because most people have a set of words at their disposal that will tell the truth just fine in the workplace. 
The words in your vocabulary are timeless and potentially each one is valuable for all kinds of reasons.  The precise word is what you need, but sometimes you will choose a word for the way it sounds and fits inside a sentence or because it is a go-to word and you have forgotten to think carefully about the impact of certain words upon readers.  It isn’t complicated.  Just use the precise word that you need to say what you want to say.  It can be a short, good word.  For instance, when some people are trying to sound more businesslike, he/she might choose the word “utilize” over “use.”  But “use” works just fine, and it doesn’t sound better or impress the reader, which is why people often use it.  Don’t look up any big words to show off.   Everyone has enough words to write in the workplace because the words you use in the workplace should be everyday words—not dress up words or big words for the sake of using big words.  Choose words for clarity.  Choose them for color or action or courtesy.  Choose them mindfully with a purpose you hope to achieve.  Choose them for the sake and interest of your envisioned reader.
 You don’t have to learn 100 new words; you simply need to be more careful about using the ten most commonly overused and not specific-enough words:

  1.        Things—vague and over used
  2.        Do—an all-purpose verb that often stands in for actions like chop, mow, eat lunch
  3.          Get—Listen to yourself use this word and ask:  Which action am I trying to point to with this vague imprecise word?  Use that verb instead of get.
  4.         So—For a word as small as this one, “so” tries to accomplish some very big jobs. Most often that job is to prove a logical conclusion that may not exist.  Listen to how people use “so” and you will see it as the connector between one action and the implied effect of that action. Just because people use the word “so” to connect an action to an effect doesn’t mean that the conclusion is trustworthy or reliable.  That is true of how the word sounds to other people, and when you use “so” very often and recklessly, others may view your logic in just the same way.
  5.        A lot—A description for many items or a great deal of time, money or things in general.  If your answer is:  a lot of things, then you are using two vague ideas to try and represent a concept or item that is much more specific than these two words.
  6.        Is—Try to see this soft, passive verb as a yellow caution light.  When you see it and you are the person who wrote it, ask yourself:  “Is there an action verb that could precisely replace it?”   Sister words for is include:  are, was, were, be, being, and been. 
  7.       Awesome—This word is almost a filler now and means about as much as the sound of a sneeze or conversational fillers, such as “Hmmmm” or “Yay.”  Look for the adjective that describes that awesome sunset, that awesome dessert, that awesome song, that awesome bug on the wall and any other focus that has your attention.
  8.       Amazing—See the above description for awesome. The same logic applies.
  9.        You—Think “you” for the reader but don’t use the word very often in writing.  Minimize its use because while many writers intend for the use of the word to create a bond with the reader, it can sometimes feel to the reader as if he/she is being jabbed in the chest with a pointed finger.
  10.     I—Presently our culture is built on building everyone’s self-esteem by celebrating the “I” in all of us.  Celebrate other people more than you do yourself, and you will be a far more effective communicator and your self-esteem and theirs will be just fine.

Maybe you use or overuse some words not on that small list of ten words. They key to creating a sharper and more powerful vocabulary is to know which words you overuse and start using more precise words that say exactly what you mean.
            Here are the key ideas to remember about your vocabulary:
  • ·          Big words are not more valuable than smaller words.  
  • ·         You already have enough words.    
  • ·         The right word carefully chosen is priceless.

  • Daphne Simpkins' newest book is Christmas in Fountain City

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