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Beyond ‘very’ and ‘just’: how to level up your word choices for powerful writing

We all strive to express ourselves clearly and effectively. We could be crafting a heartfelt email to a friend, a persuasive essay, or a captivating business proposal. Yet, many writers, both novice and experienced, stumble upon a common hurdle. The dreaded vocabulary rut. We fall back on the same tired adverbs like ‘very’ and ‘just’. These can kill the impact of our words, leaving our writing feeling bland and uninspired.

But don’t panic! There’s a world of vibrant language waiting to be explored. Beyond the confines of overused crutches. By actively expanding your vocabulary and using words with precision, you can elevate your writing to new heights. Here’s how to engage your readers and convey your message with power and clarity.

Why vocabulary matters

The words you choose are the building blocks of your writing. They shape the reader’s experience and understanding of your message. Precise and nuanced language allows you to do a lot of things…

  • Paint vivid pictures. Imagine the difference between saying, ‘the house was big’ and describing it as, ‘a sprawling mansion with towering gables and an air of imposing grandeur.’ The latter option creates a more vivid mental image for the reader. Immerse them in the scene.
  • Express subtle emotions. Words like ‘sad’ and ‘happy’ are perfectly serviceable. On the other hand, they lack depth and nuance. By selecting more specific terms like ‘melancholy,’ ‘elated,’ or ‘dejected,’ you can convey a wider range of feelings with greater precision.
  • Enhance your credibility. A strong vocabulary demonstrates confidence and sophistication. Especially in academic or professional writing. It conveys a deeper understanding of the subject matter. It also makes you appear more articulate and well-informed.
  • Engage your readers. Using varied and interesting vocabulary keeps your writing engaging. It also prevents readers from feeling bored or disengaged. This demonstrates your dedication to the craft and your desire to communicate effectively.

Moving away from ‘very’ and ‘just’

So, how do we break free from the shackles of overused crutches and embrace a richer vocabulary? Here are a few practical tips.

Embrace the thesaurus

This trusty companion shouldn’t be relegated to a dusty corner of your bookshelf. Use it as a springboard to explore synonyms and find words that better capture what you’re aiming for. Remember, the thesaurus is not a substitute for thoughtful word choice. Use it to supplement your existing vocabulary, not replace it altogether.

Read widely and actively

Immerse yourself in different writing styles and genres. By reading works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and even journalistic articles, you’ll encounter a wider range of vocabulary used in various contexts. Pay attention to how authors use specific words and incorporate them into your writing repertoire.

Challenge yourself

Set yourself the goal of using a new word each day. Or even each week. Look for opportunities to replace overused adverbs and adjectives with more impactful alternatives. This conscious effort will gradually expand your vocabulary and become second nature.

Embrace context

Remember, the best word choice depends on the specific context of your writing. A formal research paper might call for a more sophisticated vocabulary than a casual social media post. Always consider your audience and the tone you want to convey when selecting your words.

Beyond vocabulary: the art of word choice

While expanding your vocabulary is crucial, it’s equally important to use words with intention and precision. Simply replacing ‘very’ with ‘extremely’ isn’t always the most effective solution. Here are some additional considerations.

Seek the right fit

Don’t simply choose the longest or most obscure word you find. Opt for the word that conveys the intended meaning most precisely and naturally within your sentence structure.

Avoid redundancy

Using multiple synonyms for the same concept can be redundant and clunky. Instead, rephrase your sentence or use different aspects of the same word (e.g., ‘happy,’ ‘happiness,’ ‘happily’).

Maintain clarity

While powerful vocabulary can enhance your writing, prioritise clarity above all else. If a simpler word effectively conveys your message, don’t feel pressured to use a more complex one.

Remember, language is a dynamic tool. As you write and engage with the world around you, your vocabulary will naturally evolve. Embrace the learning process, experiment with different words, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. With dedication and a love for language, you’ll transform yourself from a writer who “just writes” to one who writes with power, clarity, and confidence.

Readable is here to help

Check out these resources on how Readable can help with your word choices: 

The most common synonym swaps on Readable

How redundant expressions contribute to wordiness