LawProse Lesson #96

LawProse Lesson #96

What’s the best way to build your vocabulary? Why is it a good idea to do so?  ANSWER: First, keep a vocabulary notebook. Jot down every unfamiliar word that you encounter, look it up in a reliable dictionary, and copy down its definition. Commit it to memory. Try to make it yours. Second, read a book on vocabulary building. At LawProse, we recommend these:
  • Charles Harrington Elster, Verbal Advantage (2000).
  • Wilfred Funk & Norman Lewis, 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary (rev. ed. 1970).
  • Maxwell Nurnberg & Morris Rosenblum, How to Build a Better Vocabulary (1989).
You’d be well advised to build a much bigger vocabulary than you actually use in everyday life. Although there may not be much to earlier studies suggesting that people with big vocabularies are generally more successful, reading specialists have found the bigger your vocabulary, the greater your reading comprehension. Bryan A. Garner estimates that in a random sampling of 100 lawyers, those at the low end would have a vocabulary of about 80,000 words; those at the high end, 120,000. Here are five intermediate words that any lawyer ought to know: 1. adulation 2. bellicose 3. calumny 4. contrite 5. countenance See if their definitions come to mind before peeking at the key below. If you’re five-for-five, congratulations. If you don’t know one or more, then you now have the first entries for your own vocabulary notebook. Sources: Garner’s Modern American Usage 736-38 (3d ed. 2009). The Winning Brief 238-39 (2d ed. 2004). Advanced Legal Writing & Editing 36-43 (2011). Answers: 1. Extreme admiration. 2. Warlike. 3. Defamation. 4. Remorseful. 5. Face; visage.

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