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Enriching Vocabulary-Choice of words, Synonyms and Antonyms-CSEET

Enriching Vocabulary-Choice of words, Synonyms and Antonyms-CSEET


Introduction – Enriching Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a person’s own knowledge of words. It may be anyone, not necessary to be a just language user and it is really very useful to have a good vocabulary because today we can’t keep up without any good treasury of words in our minds.

There are really many benefits that an enriched vocabulary can give to someone. The biggest benefit is the impact on others. When you use a language with good words, it makes a positive impact on others. There are many reasons why it is important to enrich your list of vocabulary words. Some of them are as follows:

  • Building your vocabulary is important in reading comprehension.
  • Building your vocabulary will improve your communication skills- verbal and written communication skills will improve and you may be able to better understand another individual.
  • Building your vocabulary may help improve your personal life, social life and professional life

Good to know!!!

We should know the exact meaning of the words we propose to use. Many words, which are listed as synonyms or words with the same meaning have subtle differences. Consulting a good dictionary regularly helps in build a good repertoire of vocabulary. It is equally important to learn in what context a particular word can be used and what is its exact meaning, e.g., “erudite” means “having or showing knowledge or learning”.

You can say Mr. X was an erudite speaker, but you cannot say that Mr. X’s speeches were erudite.

To enrich one’s vocabulary following topics are discussed in details below:

Choice of words
Vocabulary topicsHomophones
Single Word for Group of Words (One word substitution)
Words frequently misspelt
Idioms and Phrases
Foreign words and phrases commonly used


  1. Choice of Words

The words you would choose to communicate with someone depend on the following factors:

  • The range or repertoire of your vocabulary – Unless you know a word, you would not be able to use it.
  • Your audience or person you are communicating with – Firstly, you must assess the literacy level of the audience or person. Then try to find out what kind of situation you are in – whether the audience or person is senior or junior to you; whether you are formal or informal with them, etc., these considerations will help you greatly in the choice of words.

You could hardly use slang or a code word in describing a colleague in an official memo, Can you?

  • Type of communication – Whether it is formal or informal, oral or written, these factors will also influence your choice of words.
  • The message you intend to convey – The urgency, disappointment, the level of accuracy required, etc. can also be conveyed through the apt words. Therefore, these too will influence your choice of words.
  • Context and usage – Certain words can only be used in a particular context, and if they are used otherwise, they would convey the wrong sense; hence influencing the choice of words.
  • Regional or national differences in language or connotation also influence your choice of words – ‘Liberal’ in Britain has a positive meaning. It means generous and open minded, whereas in America it is used as a term of political abuse.
  • Improving Vocabulary – Try and understand the root/etymology of the words. Good dictionaries give all the changes that a root word can undergo.

To choose words that communicate clearly and with the appropriate tone, you should learn everything possible about those with whom you wish to communicate and take into account any prior correspondence with them. Then you should word your message so that it is easy for them to understand it and respond favorably. Tailoring your message to your readers is not only strategically necessary, it is also a sign of consideration for their time and energy. Everyone benefits when the message are clear and appropriate to the correspondent’s situation.

Adaptation – The Best Strategy for Effective Wording

As with every other element of your messages, your choice of words needs to be guided by the audience and its purpose. For example, knowing that your writing should be “clear and concise” is not enough; What this means will depend a great deal on the situation. As we have suggested above, what is clear for one person may not be clear for at all for another. People occupy different language domains, and anything outside their domains will not be clear unless it is explained in their language. As for conciseness, you must be careful not to sacrifice effectiveness for brevity. If you cut your communications too short for your readers- for example, by omitting important details in a persuasive message or critical information in a report- you have written an incomplete, not a concise message.

Tips for choosing the right words

However, some general points to remember in communication are:

  • Simplicity : Simple language produces the best and the quickest response from everyone. But one must try not to sacrifice precision or dignity. However, there are occasions when easy comprehension must take a back seat. At times, long and unusual words have to be used because they are more precise. For example, legal language is far from simple. Hence the legal draftsman has to keep the complexity of situation in mind. He may end up using complex language.

Using familiar words does not mean using colloquial English. Colloquial English is perfectly polite and acceptable in informal conversation, but is avoided in formal writing. For example, haven’t, won’t and can’t have no place in prose, unless you have reproduced the text of a conversation.

Apart from colloquialism, there is no set rule for using familiar words. The important thing is to avoid a show of pedantry (an ostentatious and inappropriate display of learning) and undesirable complexity.

  • Use familiar words : Use familiar words i.e., the words with sharp and clear meanings in the mind. As words which are familiar to some people may be unfamiliar to others, so you will need to select familiar words with care.

Specifically, using familiar words means using the language that is used by most of us in everyday conversation. We should avoid stiff, more difficult words that do not communicate so precisely or quickly. For example, instead of using the more unfamiliar word endeavor, use try. Instead of using terminate use end.

The suggestion to use familiar words does not rule out use of some more difficult words. You should use them whenever their meanings fit your purpose best and your readers understand them clearly. The mistake that many of us make is to overwork the more difficult words. We use them so much that they interfere with our communication. A good suggestion is to use the simplest words that carry the meaning without offending the readers’ intelligence.

  • Jargon : Jargon is language that is unique to a particular field of knowledge, e.g., science, technology, art, trade or a profession. There is for instance legal jargon, military jargon, and political jargon. For e.g. the word ‘Operation’ takes on different meanings depending on the context in which it is used.

Should we avoid all jargon in our writing? The question is not easy to answer. Jargon has two parts: One is the private language that only the persons in that particular field can understand.

The other is wider acceptance of certain words and phrases in the general language used by the public. There cannot be any objection if this kind of jargon is used in writing.

  • Avoid using superfluous words/Verbosity : Verbosity (an expressive style that uses excessive or superfluous words) or using more words than necessary is a common weakness. The speaker/writer uses more words than needed in the hope of diverting/retaining audiences. This tendency is seen in writing too. It has been well defined as an extension of Parkinson’s Law-words increase in number to fill the quantity of paper available. More words do not necessarily lead to greater clarity. Nor do difficult and high sounding words lend weight to the argument. They obscure meaning and tire the reader out.
  • Choose short words : According to studies of readability, short words generally communicate better than long words. Of course, part of the explanation is that short words tend to be familiar words. But there is another explanation i.e. a heavy use of long words, even long words that are understood, leaves an impression of difficulty and hinders communication.

The suggestion that short words be chosen does not mean that all short words are easy and all long words are hard. Many exceptions exist. Thus, you should concentrate on short words and use long words with caution. Use long word only when you think your readers know it.

  • Select words for precise meaning : Writing requires considerable knowledge of the language being used. But beyond basic familiarity with vocabulary, good writers possess a sensitivity to words’ shades of meaning.

Knowledge of language enables you to use words that carry the meaning you want to communicate. For example, fewer and less means the same to some people. But careful users select fewer to mean “smaller numbers of items” and less to mean “reduced value, degree or quantity”. Similarly careful writers use continual to mean “repeated but broken succession” and continuous to mean “unbroken succession”.

  • Use Gender-neutral words : All too prevalent in today’s business communication are words that discriminate by gender. Although this form of discrimination can be directed against men, most instances involve discrimination against women because many of our words suggest male superiority. This problem has evolved because our language developed in a society in which it was customary for women to work in the home and for men to be breadwinners and decision makers. As a result our language displays this male dominance. For reason of fair play and to be in step with today’s society in which gender equality is the goal, you would do well to use gender-neutral words. For example the word Chairman refers to both sexes, yet it does not sound that way. More appropriate and less offensive substitutes are chair, presiding officer, moderator and chairperson.

In business today, men and women, the young and the old and people of all races work side by side in roles of mutual respect. It would be unfair to use words that discriminate against any of them.

  1. Synonyms

Synonyms are words that have very nearly the same meaning, for example:

(i)    easy, simple, light, effortless, facile, smooth.

(ii)   effort, exertion, pains, trouble,

(iii)   elastic, flexible, supple, springy, resilient.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find two words in English which have exactly the same meaning and usage. Words that seem to be identical on a closer examination can be distinguished by some shade of meaning or some manner of usage. Therefore, most of the time they cannot be interchanged. Finding and knowing synonyms is helpful in the sense that it enhances your vocabulary by increasing your stock of words. Moreover, it helps you to pick and choose the appropriate word which alone can convey the proper meaning.

Begin, commence, start and initiate, are all synonyms which mean ‘to set something going or in progress’. Begin is the most common word, commence is used on formal occasions, for court proceedings, religious and otherceremonies and military operations; start suggests a setting out from a particular point on a journey, course, etc.,often but not necessarily after an action or waiting; initiate implies taking of the first step or steps as in a process.

You can say:

They started from their home. The ship has set out on its voyage.

If you use any other synonym in the place of ‘set out’ it would take on a different meaning. Two words may look alike and yet there may be a slight shade of difference in their meaning.

Some examples –

Adeptproficient, skilled
Abstainrefrain, withhold
Abridgeshorten, curtail
Abundantplentiful, ample, copious
Accessoryadditional, auxiliary
Achieveaccomplish, execute, gain
Adeptproficient, skilled
Adequatesufficient, satisfactory
Adherentfollower, disciple
Admirationpraise, approbation
Brisklively, agile
Calloushard, unsympathetic
Cordialgracious, congenial
Captiouscensorious, hypercritical
Cogentvalid, convincing
Deterioratedegenerate, decline
Dexterityskill, deftness
Didacticmoralising, preach
Effeteexhausted, worn-out
Ephemeraltransient, short-lived
Extravagantexcessive, wasteful
Fabricateconcoct, contrive
Fataldeadly, disastrous
Fastidiousmessy, fussy
Gaietyfestivity, merriment
Giganticcolossal, huge
Hazardousdangerous, risky
Inadvertentcareless, unplanned, unintentional
Insidiousastute, cunning
Judicioussensible, prudent, wise
Maliceill will, spite
Morbidmorose, sickly
Negligentcareless, lax
Obtusedull, stupid, blunt
Onerousburdensome, oppressive
Panegyriceulogy, encomium
Penurywant, poverty
Reticentsilent, reserved
Ruinousdestructive, wreckful
Sterilebarren, infertile
Thriveprosper, flourish
Urbanecosmopolitan, suave, cultured
Wholesomehealthy, sound, healing
Yearncrave, pine
Zenithsummit, culmination
  1. Antonyms

Antonym is a word opposite or contrary in meaning to another word.

As has already been noted that there are no true synonyms, that is, no two words mean exactly the same thing. There is often some shade of difference in the meaning. In most cases exact meaning or appropriateness of a word depends upon the context in which it is used. It being so, a word may have more than one antonym.

Example : The antonym of soft that comes at once to mind is hard. But there are many other possibilities.

Soft drinks against hot drinks

Soft colour against bright colour

Soft tones against weird tones

Soft texture against rough texture

Soft light against glaring lights

Similarly the opposite of

A slender cane would be a thick cane,

A slender man would be a fat man,

A slender chance would be a bright chance.

Some examples of Antonyms:




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