Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Vocabulary Building


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

I am a word nerd. In high school, I would memorize the vocabulary lists, making sure to incorporate at least one of those words in my writing each week. This is how insipid, plethora, and a myriad of other words entered by vocabulary, including myriad itself.

Have you ever read a dictionary? Whenever I edit, I often end up reading a few pages before or after my initial inquiry. It's fascinating.

For instance, do you know what the following five words mean?


Alacrity means "promptness in response, a cheerful readiness."


Didactic is an adjective used to describe something that is "designed or intended to teach, or the intended to convey instruction and information, as well as pleasure and entertainment." It also can mean making moral observations.


A haboob is a "massive dust storm," such as the ones that often roll through Phoenix, Arizona. The word comes from the Arabic, habub, which means "violent storm."


This word means "frugal to the point of stinginess." Merriam-Webster.com gives the example of a parsimonious woman who insists that charity begins and ends at home.


Schadenfreude is "enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others." It comes from the German words for "damage" and "joy."

All definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster.com.

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A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women's fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


I was the same way in high school. :)
I bet we would have been great friends in high school, Kelly. :)
Anonymous said…
For me, it wasn't dictionaries, it was encyclopedias. :)
I did, too, angel011. Couldn’t help myself. The things one could discover in just a few pages!
Rae Lake said…
I also read the entire dictionary. I already had a love of words from my proofreader mother. I wasn't naughty, I was incorrigible. I had a boyfriend in college who said he couldn't date me without a pocket dictionary. In my first job, the office had a huge dictionary on a wooden stand steps away from my desk. Spent many hours absorbing words all the way through Z. These days I often avoid using words others wouldn't understand. Pity. Still value them in my own writing though.
Rae Lake said…
PS. Karen, I tried to read your That vs. Which but was told I didn't have the right account to access it. Info, please?
Hi, Rae. Love that you incorporate your vocabulary words into your vernacular.

Regarding access, everything on this blog is open to the public, so maybe there was just a glitch. My advice is to exit out and try again. Let me know how it goes, okay?

Thanks for stopping by.

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