Sunday, June 3, 2007

Vocabulary/Word Choice in Writing

Question: What’s the best vocabulary book on the market?

Answer: Norman Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy.

Word choice, vocabulary, the precise word for your idea. You will find no better book on the market for learning hundreds of words and enjoying the experience than Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy. If you don’t believe me, check and read the accolades of people who have bought and used the book. People rate the book, on average, 5 out of 5 stars!

Vocabulary is usually taught in school by distributing a sheet of paper with a list of words and their meanings. Students memorize the words and meanings and take a test. BOORING!

Lewis’s book is based on ideas. The reader learns the ideas behind the words. Lewis then breaks those words down into their roots, prefixes and suffixes and adds words based on the roots, prefixes and suffixes. In discussing the basic words, Lewis also adds words related to the basic words.

For example, one chapter is entitled, “How to Talk about Personality Types.” The basic ten words are egoist, egotist, altruist, introvert, extrovert, ambivert, misanthrope, misogynist, misogamist and ascetic.

Egoist and egotist are based on the root ego, meaning I or self.
Altruist is based on alter-, meaning other.
Introvert is based on intro-, meaning into and –vert meaning turn.
Extrovert is based on extro- meaning outside and –vert meaning turn,
Ambivert is based on ambi- meaning both and –vert, meaning turn.
Misanthrope is based on mis-, meaning hate and –anthrop, meaning mankind.
Misogynist is based on mis- meaning hate and gyn- meaning woman.
And misogamist is based on mis- meaning hate and –gam, meaning marriage.

By the end of the chapter, students will have learned the following words. among others, based on the roots in the original ten words, additional roots in related words and other words related to the original ten words: ego (self-concept), egocentric, alter ego and egomaniac, ambidextrous, dexterous, sinister, gauche, adroit, anthropology, anthropological, philanthropist, gynecologist, monogamy, bigamy, polygamy, polyandry. The words are also introduced in their various forms as in misanthropist, misanthropy, misanthropic, misogyny, misogynous, misogynistic with the pronunciation for each of them. .

You will enjoy the focus on ideas, the emphasis on the Greek and Latin roots, the ability to remember the words because of the roots, the brief objective tests that virtually assure learning, and concentration on pronunciation of some real jaw breakers.

Other topics and their basic ten words include:

How to Talk about Doctors: internist, gynecologist, obstetrician, pediatrician, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, orthopedist, cardiologist, neurologist, psychiatrist.

How to Talk about Practitioners: psychologist, psychoanalyst, orthodontist, optometrist, optician, osteopath, chiropractor, podiatrist, graphologist, gerontologist.

How to Talk about Science and Scientists: anthropologist, astronomer, geologist, biologist, botanist, zoologist, entomologist, philologist, semanticist, sociologist.

How to Talk about Liars: notorious, consummate, incorrigible, inveterate, congenital, chronic, pathological, unconscionable, glib, egregious.

How to Talk about Actions: disparaging, equivocating, titillate, adulate, proscribing, obviate, militates, maligning, condone, placate.

How to Talk about Speech Habits: taciturn, laconic, inarticulate, garrulous, banal, verbose, voluble, cogent, vociferous, loquacious.

How to Insult Your Enemies: martinet, sycophant, dilettante, virago, chauvinist, monomaniac, iconoclast, atheist, lecher, hypochondriac.

How to Flatter Your Friends: convivial, indefatigable, ingenuous, perspicacious, magnanimous, versatile, stoical, intrepid, scintillating, urbane.

How to Talk about Common Phenomena and Occurrences: penury, vicarious, ephemeral, euphemisms, badinage, bovine, nostalgia, cacophonous, carnivorous, clandestine.

How to Talk about What Goes On: to enervate, to castigate, to self-abnegate, to recapitulate, to vegetate, to simulate, to intimate, to alleviate, to commiserate, to vacillate.

How to Talk about a Variety of Personal Characteristics: obsequious, querulous, supercilious, obstreperous, impecunious, chivalrous, innocuous, bibulous, cadaverous, dolorous.

To these ten basic words in each chapter, Lewis adds other words based on the same roots and related words. The result is hundreds and hundreds of interesting words, focusing not so much on the words as on their roots and meanings.

In the years that I have worked with students on this approach to vocabulary, I have found the students to be excited by the way in which they learn the words and remember them without having to memorize them. In addition, my experience has shown that these words appear frequently on the vocabulary sections of the SAT and the Graduate Record Exam.

But their greatest value is in the use of the precise word for your idea when you write and speak.

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