Monday, 3 September 2012

Today's lesson: Reading with a Dictionary

 Yesterday, I had to smile at a newsletter that I subscribe to. It listed 10 things David Ogilvy wrote as writing advice in 1942. 

My favourite was number 4 - Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
While it might be true, it also highlighted something when I am reading a non-fiction book - my lack of English vocabulary. That might sound odd for a writer, but I didn’t grow up speaking English at home. And until I left high school, my oratory skills in my second language were laughable at best.

Now I am fluent, so it is no longer a problem, except when I read non-fiction books, and upon occasion a novel. I read it with a dictionary next to me. I have always had the philosophy that I have to learn at least one new thing each day, and oftentimes that would be a new word. I look it up and write it down, along with its meaning, not necessarily with the intention of using it in my next story, but it helps to remember it.

Using big words, is not part of my style of writing, but when a story calls for more formal language, or is set in a different time period, it helps to have a broader vocabulary. Or perhaps it is just knowing where to go and find the right word for the context - whether it is my trusty little Oxford, or the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The last word I added to my list? Turpitude. Now that could lead to some wickedness down the line - and I am not letting that rabbit out of the hat right now!