Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Size Matters

Bryan Garner’s recent article in the ABA’s Student Lawyer highlights an E.D. Hirsch piece in which Hirsch discusses the correlation between a large vocabulary and long-term success in any profession.  Garner notes that simply knowing more words will make you a better, faster reader and includes a tough 30-question quiz of words used in numerous post-1900 cases. 
As a logophile, I love learning new words.  But, as I’ve said before, and as Garner reminds readers in his piece, you shouldn’t use motions or other court filings to show off your vocabulary and should generally avoid using words that readers won’t know.  You want your writing to highlight the substance of your argument, not your large vocabulary.
One way I increase my vocabulary is using Merriam-Webster’s free iPhone app.  I use the app to look up words as I encounter them.  If I had to go get a dictionary or look up words online, I’d be much less likely to do it.  But since my phone is almost always close, I can easily, quickly find definitions.   
What are some of your favorite “big” words?  Right now, I’m loving pernicious (highly destructive), mellifluous (having a smooth, rich—even sweet—flow), and stultify (to negate or cause to appear ineffective or illogical).






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