For starters, even the smartest guy in the world doesn’t have all the millions of words in the dictionary at his swift disposal. The academic and the well-read can have only upwards of 60,000-80,000 words in his vocabulary bank. Most function with just a few thousands.
Where does this leave us? Rather, what does this mean to us, regular, average-minded folks?
A lot of effort.
But hey, if we can function with less, why the effort to stew our brains over for more? Below are a couple of reasons why:
Clarify, elaborate, paraphrase
Even when we’re done writing all those “academic” essays in school, the need to clarify, elaborate, and paraphrase is everywhere. When we have to confirm something, for instance, nobody wants to hear a PARROT, that’s for sure.
Snappy, spontaneous, fluid
When conversing with people, we need to speak as we think or is it the other way around? In other words, we need to have the right words come Pronto! – as we need them. An expansive enough vocabulary affords us this facility in the language. Grammar is totally nothing compared to vocabulary in regard to the vastness of the scope and the consequent work needed. Come to think of it: We can actually count all the grammar rules there are. We can’t really say that about vocabulary.
Repetitive, boring, limited are no-no’s
Even with our limited opportunities to actually write anything at work, functional and concise can’t mean dull writing. We need to enliven our writing with expressions that have the most appeal, not only to the logic but also to the emotions of the intended reader. While a nice mix of different sentence structures give our writing its solid foundation, dashes of genius words and phrases here and there can really take it further.
And this is where the THESAURUS comes in.
As I’ve advocated to my students all these years, having the thesaurus HANDY at all times can really help in building up the vocabulary. Sure, some words have so many distinctions and may not in fact be usable in the context we have in mind, and faced with the task of distinguishing one word from another, we can feel like we only have another odious chore in our hands.
Understandably, seeing the immense number of choices there and having to decide which to use is just plain UN-FUN. It can feel very daunting. At first. In time, when consulted frequently enough, we’ll get the hang of it. With steady investment in time and effort, that keener ability to filter the entries in that damned THESAURUS and zero in only on those which serve our specific purpose will be developed. And by then, we’ll have learned enough nuances of the English language and will have become more appealing, swaying, moving, vivid, eloquent, sharp-shooting, effective communicators!