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  1. #1
    Shelley_B is offline Newbie
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    Question Need help with vocabulary sources

    I was just skimming through Word Smart and I saw a lot of words I didn't know. I do read frequently, but I have never ever seen these words anywhere. Newspapers and magazines are written simplistically. The modern novels I read really don't have much of the vocabulary in those lists. Is it perhaps the genre I prefer? I read suspense like Baldacci, etc. The rest of my reading seems to be in the financial sphere. Except for never coming across the words in reading, I never hear them spoken. Granted, the most proper, spoken English I hear is on the news. Take the word abstruse for example. The only place I've read it is in Word Smart and there are many more words like that. From the foreword I gather that they researched the most frequently used and necessary words used in academia and English texts. My question is: "In which books, text, or material are those words used?"

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    teechar is offline Moderator
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Hello, and welcome.
    It's not very useful to learn vocabulary out of context. It's also very difficult to memorise it that way. I really wouldn't worry too much about such words. No one knows all the words in a language, and the best thing you can do is to vary what you read in terms of sources, media, genre, etc.

    Having said all that, there is the Academic Word List, which apparently contains the most commonly used words in academic/formal contexts. You can google that and take a look at it if you wish.

  3. #3
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    One idea that might help and might be fun: Broaden your choice of books and magazines.

    Baldacci is a good writer. But you're right, he doesn't have a big word range. I'd aim at some middle-brow writers, like T.C. Boyle and Barbara Kingsolver. Some magazines to try include The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and The Atlantic. (Those are American suggestions. I'm sure the Brits here will have recommendations, too. I used to get Punch. It was funny.)

    I like keeping a dictionary by my side. I picked up the habit while painting the house of a retired school teacher one summer. Whenever I went inside, he was reading T.C. Boyle, and he was opening his dictionary constantly. For him, half the fun of Boyle was learning new words.

    People who read widely generally have bigger vocabularies. Teechar is right. Words that you don't hear often don't stick. So just keep reading and keep looking things up.

    It can't hurt, right? And whatever you pick up is gravy (second definition).
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    Shelley_B is offline Newbie
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Okay, I'll try those. I know that older writers have a richer vocabulary and a more interesting writing style, but that's usually a stumble upon for me, since I don't have a list of authors. I just go by title and genre. Don't worry about my memory, I have more issues forgetting than remembering. I'll take a look what the library e-books have. Thank you for the input.

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    I would question the idea that older writers have a better style- they have different styles.

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    Shelley_B is offline Newbie
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I would question the idea that older writers have a better style- they have different styles.
    Their writing styles are more prosaic and their choice of words is thoughtful and more gracious than younger writers. Probably similar to old wine is more flavorful than lesser aged wine.

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    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelley_B View Post
    Okay, I'll try those. I know that older writers have a richer vocabulary and a more interesting writing style, but that's usually a stumble upon for me, since I don't have a list of authors. I just go by title and genre. Don't worry about my memory, I have more issues forgetting than remembering. I'll take a look what the library e-books have. Thank you for the input.
    The ones I mentioned are contemporary.

    If you Google literary fiction books and literary fiction 2020, you'll find lots of contemporary writers with strong vocabularies.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  8. #8
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Another note:

    Most English-language fiction comes in three broad categories: genre fiction, classics (also known as literature), and literary fiction.

    Genre fiction is aimed at the widest market. It includes suspense, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery. Baldacci is a genre fiction author.

    Classics (a.k.a. literature) refers to the bygone writers whose books have endured over time.

    Literary fiction is current writing that does not easily fit into any genre. This is what you should look for, for two reasons:

    - It tends to use more interesting language.

    - It's usually written in contemporary English, so it's easier to untangle than classics.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 27-Aug-2020 at 15:45.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelley_B View Post
    Their writing styles are more prosaic and their choice of words is thoughtful and more gracious than younger writers. Probably similar to old wine is more flavorful than lesser aged wine.
    Don't get me wrong- I like Dickens, but that does not mean that there is not good stuff being done today.

  10. #10
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    Re: Need help with vocabulary sources

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I like Dickens
    I don't know if I like Dickens - I've never been to one.

    Sorry - totally off-topic but one of our family's favourite jokes. Mildly NSFW, by the way!
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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