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How to Use Definite Words


Two very important groups of words are those that we call generic words, and those that we call specific.

A generic word is a word that refers to a group or class, for example, "animal."

A specific word is a word that refers to a particular member of a class, for example, "maltese cat."

Although a generic word includes much, it calls up no definite picture. A specific word suggests a definite, precise picture. A specific word is, of course, a denotative word. Instead of using general, or class terms, use specific, or denotative terms that are precise.

Use specific words at every opportunity.

By so doing you make your speech picturesque, vivid, interesting and compelling.

Notice the following sentences. The first one in every case, employs a generic word. The .second employs a specific word. Notice the immediate gain in interest and vitality.

1. He showed me some curiosities.

2. He showed me some Indian arrowheads.

1. It was an attractive building.

2. It was an attractive cottage.

1. I saw several kinds of people.

2. I saw Arabs, Cossacks, and cowboys.

1. I went out on the water.

2. I went out on the little lake.

1. I did some good reading.

2. I read Parkman's Conspiracy of Pontiac.

1. I made a long journey.

2. I traveled a thousand miles.

Here is a list of generic and specific words. Add to the list the words of each kind.

Generic Words. Specific Words.
emotion fear
wrong-doing theft
color blue
foreign land Armenia
exercise boxing

In general, follow the rule: Be specific. You will Soon gain the reputation of being interesting.


Study your own speech to 3ee how much you use generic words. Substitute specific words.

How to Make Your Speech Dignified


All words are really dignified if you use them properly.

As a general rule, however, short words give force, and long words give dignity.

Therefore follow these rules in speech:

1. Use short words for emphasis.

2. Use short words to indicate action.

3. Use short words to indicate emotion.

4. Use long words to gain dignity in speech.

5. Use long words to add beauty to speech.

6. Use long words to give accuracy to speech.

Notice the speech of daily life. Most of it is in short words. The speech of children, of laborers, and of people in general is largely in short words.

Now notice the speech of the courts, of lawyers, of doctors, of professional men of all kinds. You see that it is largely in long words.

The long word is usually the more accurate, for it has not been subjected to abuse through frequent use.

There are times and occasions for both types of words.

See to it that your speech is not made up too much of either type.

Excessive use of short words makes speech childlike and simple.

Excessive use of long words makes speech heavy, dull, and pedantic.

Use both in moderation, and on the proper occasions.

Consider the comparative values of the following words, the first column consisting of long words, the second of short:

autonomous self-governing

demobilized set free from army service

destitute poor

cessation stop

evacuating going out

plebiscite vote

dissolution breaking up

modification change

reciprocity giving and receiving

transportation carrying


Say a sentence in short words'. Now express the same thought in long words. Which do you prefer?


How to Use Imitative Words


Much of the language has developed by imitation. Men have tried, in speech, to imitate the sounds heard in nature.

At first there may have been no other words to represent the particular concepts, but now we have many synonyms, and it is possible to speak without using imitative words.


Use imitative words at every opportunity.

Here are some examples. The first sentence in every case uses a word that is not imitative. The second employs an imitative word. Notice how the use of that word adds force to the sentence.

1. I heard the sound of the arrow.

2. I heard the whizz of the arrow.

1. The sound of the falls overcame me.

2. The roar of the falls overcame me.

1. The noise of the train was heard.

2. The rumble of the train was heard

1. Then came a long drawn peal of the elements.

2. Then came a long drawn peal of thunder.

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