‘Brevity is the soul of wit’
his quote by William Shakespeare is deemed to be an adage as the use of precise language is an effective means to achieve quality writing. When you write something, your goal is to create meaning for the readers. Using specific words will help you make the text sound more meaningful and thereby communicate with clarity.
So, what do we mean by precise language? Precise language is the use of exact nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., to help create vivid mental pictures without resorting to using too many words to convey the thoughts.
To achieve pithiness in writing, you must first learn to think to the point with precision. Then use the fewest possible words to embellish your text and make it more intriguing. Enhance the quality of your text using the exact nouns, adjectives, and verbs and avoid verbiage. To expand your vocabulary, it is advisable to blindly follow the age-old tradition of reading. That is still the most tried and tested method.
Reading novels or poems of famous writers will enrich your mind and widen your lexicon. You can also play word games, use flashcards on your smartphone, or set a goal of skimming the dictionary and memorizing a new word every day. But be careful! Do not sacrifice clarity or meaning just for the sake of using unusual words. Precise language is crucial, but you must have the acumen to know when and how to use them. Learning the commonly misused words and phrases, playing with connotations, and implementing figurative language are fitting ways to employ precise words in your text.
Why do you need a robust vocabulary?
Vocabulary helps you to express your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. The objective of your writing is to help the readers create mental images of what they peruse. The interplay of words will help them experience the narrative by activating their senses. Having an extensive vocabulary enables you to convey your thoughts accurately and succinctly.
So, what do we mean by a robust vocabulary? Vocabulary signifies all the words that a particular person or a group of people either use or understand. Every person’s vocabulary is unique and individualistic. So, it’s evident that your stock of words is directly proportional to your communication or writing skills. The more the stock, the better and more effective is your written piece or speech.
A rich vocabulary set nourishes not only your writing skills but also improves your reading, speaking, and comprehension skills. In the case of writing, you need a robust vocabulary to express your thoughts using precise language. Different types of writing have a diverse set of demands and requirements. Using conversational language will not do justice to your writing. Instead, you need to have an excellent command of your language to portray a vivid picture that will grasp the attention of your readers.
We tend to use the words good and bad too often in our language. These general-purpose words are commonly used and should be replaced with words that have definite meanings. To enhance your writing skills, you must recognize and avoid these words and use precise language. Another expression that makes your text verbose and obscure is very. We tend to go overboard with our descriptions and use very often to put more emphasis on the related words. Subconsciously, very is quite natural for us as we are well acquainted with it and its use. But using very is not very wise, or rather, we should say, not essential. Let us discuss more.
Why should you not use the word very?
It’s necessary to get rid of the word very while describing everything. Using very in your text or speech makes it bland, boring, and repetitive. Look at the sentence below. Very can function as an adjective or an adverb.
He is a very good man who leads a very simple life.
The sentence sounds monotonous and uninteresting. Instead, you can choose specific words to make it sound more engaging and thought-provoking. The English lexicon is saturated with numerous words that you can use to replace very to improve your writing skills. Here, you can use precise language, for example, excellent in place of very good and basic for very simple.
What is the problem with very?
You can tell by reading sentences with very that they sound dull and boring. But what is the reason for that? Very is an intensifier. An intensifier is used with an adjective or an adverb to enhance the meaning or make it stronger. In other words, an intensifier shows emphasis and strengthens the phrase beside it. It is known for lending an emotional tinge to the word it describes.
Intensifiers are adverbs or adverbial phrases that do not have any true value. Removing them from a sentence will not affect the meaning of the text. They account for lazy writing, and using them will make you sound melodramatic. That’s why intensifiers are mostly avoided in formal writing. Some of the most common examples of intensifiers are – extremely, really, incredibly, amazingly, etc.
Thus, when you use an intensifier like very to modify an adjective or an adverb, it intensifies or augments the degree of emphasis on the modified word. It is recommended to use intensifiers sparingly. If you use very once in your piece, it should not dilute your work as such. But using them several times in your text will wreck your writing. To avoid that, you need to build your vocabulary and use precise language to make your text more absorbing.
Examples with sentences
We have compiled a list a of words that you can use instead of very.
1. Ron was very afraid of the dark.
Ron was fearful of the dark.
2. Kelly had a very annoying experience in college.
Kelly had an exasperating experience in college.
3. My father is very busy with work at the moment.
My father is swamped with work at the moment.
4. Gary looked very confused at the conference.
Gary looked perplexed at the conference.
5. John was becoming very depressed as the days went by.
John was becoming despondent as the days went by.
6. His uncle was very fat.
His uncle was obese.
7. We were all very hungry after the long and arduous journey.
We were all starving after the long and arduous journey.
8. My cousin Tara is very lazy and steers clear of all forms of physical exercise.
My cousin Tara is indolent and steers clear of all forms of physical exercise.
9. The journey through the narrow and meandering mountain roads was very risky.
The journey through the narrow and meandering mountain roads was perilous.
10. Paula was very willing to participate in the quiz competition.
Paula was eager to participate in the quiz competition.
Other commonly used words and phrases that make your writing bland
Not only an intensifier like very, but there are several frequently used words and phrases that lead to verbosity when we use them often. It is imperative to have a strong vocabulary to rid of these words and replace them with their matching connotations. With the help of precise language, we achieve more clarity and meaning. Let us look at a few of them.
We all use good frequently. As a matter of fact, we use good to describe anything. Our overindulgence has made us overly dependent on good. But the word itself is unimaginative and imprecise. It doesn’t accurately describe your feelings. A generic term like this doesn’t yield anything. For example, we attach well with everything – good day, good weather, good song, good boy, good reason, etc. It accounts for lazy writing. There are over 200 synonyms of good in the English dictionary. Let’s see what precise words you can use in place of the generic good to improve your writing skills.
To describe someone’s personality
1. Mr. White has a good personality that makes him popular.
Mr. White has a charismatic personality that makes him popular.
To describe a suggestion or an idea
2. Wanda’s design was good.
Wanda’s design was brilliant.
To describe taste
3. The food at Seb’s is good.
The food at Seb’s is scrumptious.
To describe a view
4. We camped near the lake because the view was good.
We camped near the lake because the view was majestic.
To describe a performance
5. It was a good performance by the traveling players.
It was a breathtaking performance by the traveling players.
Like good’s nemesis, bad is also a generic term and has a broad scope. There are many ways to say bad, and there are over 100 alternatives for the word. Some of them might not be synonyms and are only applicable in specific situations. We must be careful of the connotations while using them. Take a look at the few examples below. Using precise language helps us to create more meaningful sentences.
1. The teacher warned him of bad consequences.
The teacher warned him of dire consequences.
2. The bad weather hampered our hiking plans.
The inclement weather hampered our hiking plans.
3. The local gang was infamous for its involvement in several bad activities.
The local gang was infamous for its involvement in several nefarious activities.
4. Some of the language used in the show was bad.
Some of the language used in the show was obscene.
5. The shabby factory beside Ray’s house gave off a bad smell.
The shabby factory beside Ray’s house gave off an unpleasant smell.
The literal meaning of important is something or someone having great significance, value, or influence. We tend to use important in our speech and writing way too often. Especially in writing, the overuse of the adjective makes our piece dull and stale. Although important is an important word, it should be used sparingly. There are numerous synonyms of the term, but you must be careful while using them, particularly in formal writing. Using precise language where the words have the correct connotations will lend your text more sharpness and coherence. Reading and exploring more will give you a better understanding of context. Let’s check a few examples below.
1. The scientists and researchers made an important contribution to medical science with the development of the vaccine.
The scientists and researchers made a significant contribution to medical science with the development of the vaccine.
2. China is regarded as an important center for the cotton textile industry. China is regarded as a major center for the cotton industry.
3. He played an important role in the development of the structure.
He played a crucial role in the development of the structure.
4. The endocrine system regulates various important bodily functions.
The endocrine system regulates various vital bodily functions.
5. Roy made important donations to several charitable organizations.
Roy made substantial donations to several charitable organizations.
The phrase I think is used often in speech or writing. Usually, it’s recommended not to use the phrase at all if you want to sound confident or assertive. But it’s helpful to have a solid vocabulary and know the alternative phrases that will make your speech or writing more compelling. These phrases make you put forth your point clearly and are particularly useful in persuasive writing or arguments/debates. Let us look at a few of the examples below.
1. I think the movie is disjointed and amateurish.
In my opinion, the movie is disjointed and amateurish.
2. I think the event was a huge success.
From my point of view, the event was a huge success.
3. I think the whole thing sounds too good to be true.
If you ask me, the whole thing sounds too good to be true.
4. I think that Ingrid is up to something.
It seems to me that Ingrid is up to something.
5. I think she wants to sell the mansion.
As far as I can tell, she wants to see the mansion.