"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Monday, July 6, 2009

Improving Vocabulary

To improve my vocabulary, I am copying from my dictionary all the relatively short, common words I wouldn't ordinarily think to use, an exercise suggested by John Gardner in On Becoming a Novelist. The idea is to make an effort to use them in your writing as if they'd come naturally to you. Sounds easy, right? I'm still in the B's. What's interesting are the number of words in the English language that have more than one meaning, one which is common, and one which is obscure and can add muscle to a simple sentence. A surprising twist, if you will, that would make the sensitive reader pause and take notice. Another suggested exercise is to write an authentic sentence four pages long with no cheating (using colons and semicolons that are really periods). Yes, four pages long. I have not yet attempted that. Maybe while on vacation.... no, it would have to be a retreat.

2 comments:

rebecca said...

Yes, that four-page authentic sentence seems improbable, doesn't it? I have not tried it yet myself. I get overwhelmed at the mere thought!

Glad you are enjoying the book.

Yvonne said...

Hi Rebecca,
Yes, it is a virtual mother lode of writerly help and one of those books I know I'll keep referring back to long after I've finished it. Thank you for the tip!
Yvonne