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Ask Jodi: How Do I Use Big Words in Writing?

Dear Jodi,

I’m working on building my vocabulary, but I’m still not sure about how to use big words in my writing. I always feel kind of fake when I do it. How should I use big  words in essays?



Dear Big,

Good question. What’s the point of learning “reticent,” “loquacious,” and “misanthrope” if you don’t feel free to use them, right? Just remember that when you write, there’s a purpose and an audience. So ask yourself, “What kind of language is appropriate for the piece?” If you’re writing a review of an Adele concert for your high school paper, you’re probably not going to explain that “she filled the air with a sonorousness that managed to be both irascible and pulchritudinous.” But if you’re writing a college application essay, why not describe the truculence of your next door neighbors, your appreciation of a good raconteur, or that ephemeral quality that some relationships have? You’re a person of many voices and many tones, and the writer’s toolbox is a vast one  Like a good carpenter, be creative, be functional and use the right tool for the job.

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