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Diction - Purity - Propriety - Precision.
The first requisite of style is choice of words, and this comes under
the head of Diction, the property of style which has reference to the
words and phrases used in speaking and writing. The secret of literary
skill from any standpoint consists in putting the right word in the right
place. In order to do this it is imperative to know the meaning of the
words we use, their exact literal meaning. Many synonymous words are
seemingly interchangeable and appear as if the same meaning were applicable
to three or four of them at the same time, but when all such words are
reduced to a final analysis it is clearly seen that there is a marked
difference in their meaning. For instance grief and sorrow seem to be
identical, but they are not. Grief is active, sorrow is more or less
passive; grief is caused by troubles and misfortunes which come to us
from the outside, while sorrow is often the consequence of our own
acts. Grief is frequently loud and violent, sorrow is always quiet
and retiring. Grief shouts, Sorrow remains calm.
If you are not sure of the exact meaning of a word look it up immediately
in the dictionary. Sometimes some of our great scholars are puzzled over
simple words in regard to meaning, spelling or pronunciation. Whenever
you meet a strange word note it down until you discover its meaning and
use. Read the best books you can get, books written by men and women who
are acknowledged masters of language, and study how they use their words,
where they place them in the sentences, and the meanings they convey to
Mix in good society. Listen attentively to good talkers and try to
imitate their manner of expression. If a word is used you do not
understand, don't be ashamed to ask its meaning.
True, a small vocabulary will carry you through, but it is an advantage
to have a large one. When you live alone a little pot serves just as well
as a large one to cook your victuals and it is handy and convenient, but
when your friends or neighbors come to dine with you, you will need a
much larger pot and it is better to have it in store, so that you will
not be put to shame for your scantiness of furnishings.
Get as many words as you possibly can--if you don't need them now, pack
them away in the garrets of your brain so that you can call upon them if
you require them.
Keep a note book, jot down the words you don't understand or clearly
understand and consult the dictionary when you get time.
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