I confess that I’ve slacked off on my writing. Sure, I’m writing a lot, but most of what I’ve written lately is of the quick-and-dirty share-it-fast variety. My goal of becoming a better writer seems to have been shoved to the back burner during the heat of bird migration. But things are slowing down now and I’m getting refocused on it. And the more I write, the more I find that my vocabulary is inadequate. You may notice that I fall back on the same old words over and over again. I rely far too much on best, really, amazing, and awesome. Clearly, I need to broaden my vocabulary.
I will give myself credit for often putting aside what I’m reading to look up the definition of a word. That’s one thing I love about reading on my Kindle; it lets you highlight a word and click for the definition, instantly. But as I said, sometimes I get lazy and skip over a word that isn’t well known.
Today, for example, I was reading this post on the Nutty Birder. Eric Ripma used the word riparian to describe the habitats in which they were conducting a bird survey. I realized that I didn’t know the meaning of that word, despite having read it many times before. So I looked it up.
Riparian: relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater <riparian trees> (Definition from Merriam-Webster.com.)
I feel better now that I know that. And to make sure I remember it, I need to use it. So watch for that in future writing here. 😉
In general, though, I have a pretty good understanding of word meanings. I used to love taking the vocabulary quizzes in Reader’s Digest, and always scored well on them. What I find more useful is a thesaurus, to help me reduce my dependency on some of those crutch words. You remember your worn paperback thesaurus from high school English classes — the book that gives you synonyms for any word. Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s online thesaurus, instead of writing: “This is a White-eyed Vireo, partly named for its amazing whitish iris,” I could have written: “This is a White-eyed Vireo, partly named for its captivating whitish iris.” I like that better because it conveys a more nuanced description of why I mentioned the bird’s eye in the first place. It’s what draws and holds your attention when you see this particular bird. I guess this is an appropriate place to show you the bird again…as if I needed an excuse.
Sometimes the choices I find in the thesaurus don’t seem to work, or they feel forced, like it’s not me writing them. I presume that would diminish with continued use of a larger variety of words. Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll no longer talk and write like a teenager. Yeah, man, that would be totally awesome! LOL