Verbal advantage 10 steps to a powerful vocabulary
Let me guess why you picked up this book. You want to become a better writer and speaker. You want to use the Engl ish language correctly and with confidence.
You’re looking for something that wi l l Giúp you learn more words and learn them swiftly—something that’s not just informative but also interesting and fun to read.
You don’t want word games. You want results.
Stop right here.
Verbal Advantage is precisely what you’re looking for: the most comprehensive, accessible, and effective vocabulary-bui lding program avai lable today.
Here’s what you can expect from Verbal Advantage:
By the time you finish reading this book you wi l l have more than tripled your normal rate of learning vocabulary. And when you have mastered al l the words in the program, your vocabulary level
wi l l be in the top 5 percent of al l educated adults. You wi l l also know how to avoid common errors of grammar, usage, and pronunciation, and you wi l l possess the tools to continue bui lding your
verbal ski l ls for the rest of your l ife.
Throughout the Verbal Advantage program I wi l l be your personal guide on a tour of the Engl ish language, a tour that I guarantee wi l l Giúp you improve your word power dramatical ly and
permanently. Along the way I wi l l also coach you in how to use the language with greater clarity,
1 precision, and style.
Let me tel l you a bit about myself.
I am an author, journal ist, and radio commentator who special izes in writing about the Engl ish language. Like most serious writers, I care deeply about words—where they came from, what they
mean, how they are used and pronounced. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I’m affl icted with a terminal passion for words.
Al low me to explain how I contracted this most pleasant malady.
For as long as I can remember I have been in love with the beauty, rhythm, subtlety, and power of language, and from an early age I aspired3 to a career working with words. Like many writers, I
acquired my affection for words from my parents. Although both my father and mother are retired professional musicians, they have always been avid4 readers with a fine ear for language as wel l as
When I was young they read me stories and poems at bedtime, and as I grew older they encouraged me to read widely on my own. I often had lengthy discussions with them about books and
language, and whenever we had a question or a dispute about a word, the hefty unabridged dictionary in our l iving room was the final authority.
The consequence of this verbal ly intensive upbringing was that two parents who loved language but made music for a l iving wound up with a son who loves music but makes his l iving with
But that’s enough about me, because this book is not about me and my writing credentials. It’s about you, and how you can achieve the verbal advantage.
Verbal Advantage is about definitions, so let’s begin by defining the phrase “verbal advantage.” What exactly is a “verbal advantage”? Does it suggest what smart, successful people know
about language? Does it refer to the words they use in conversation and writing?
Yes, in part. But in this book, “verbal advantage” encompasses something more than just what educated people already know about using the language. It also means what educated people
ought to know about using the language—and how using it wel l can Giúp them succeed.
In short, a “verbal advantage” is the abi l ity to use words in a precise and powerful manner, to communicate clearly, correctly, and effectively in every situation, both on and off the job. In this
book I intend to take your abi l ity with words and turn it into mastery.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a correlation between career and financial success and an above-average vocabulary, and that the level of success people achieve is l inked to the
number of words they command. You may be on the right track, but are you as productive and successful as you know you can be? In the long run al l your hard work and al l the knowledge you gain
from experience may not produce the results you expect if you lack the confidence that comes from an accompanying mastery of words.
As the syndicated columnist Wi l l iam Raspberry once put it, “Good Engl ish, wel l spoken and wel l written, wi l l open more doors than a col lege degree…. Bad Engl ish wi l l slam doors you don’t
even know exist.”
Verbal Advantage wi l l give you most of the l inguistic tools you need to communicate more effectively and confidently, and I wi l l show you how to use them with precision. If you l ike, consider
Verbal Advantage an apprenticeship to a second career—one that can Giúp you immeasurably and enhance your chances of success. When you finish reading this book, you’ l l be on your own. But I
think you’ l l find yourself prepared to meet the chal lenge of achieving and maintaining a verbal advantage.
Improving your verbal ski l ls is not an easy task, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, it can be one of the most rewarding activities you wi l l ever undertake. Few things can equal the satisfaction
that comes from using the right word at the appropriate moment or real izing that the way you have chosen to express something has moved or gratified or persuaded your audience.
Let’s begin, then, with a brief summary of what you stand to gain from reading this book.
You wi l l learn about vocabulary bui lding and why it is indispensable to your personal development. I wi l l teach you the principles and techniques of bui lding a large and exact vocabulary and
introduce you to words that wi l l add clarity to your writing and infuse your conversation with style. You wi l l also discover how to put your powerful new vocabulary into action right away, and how to
make the words you’ve learned serve you wel l for the rest of your l ife.
Throughout this book we wi l l also explore the subject of usage versus “abusage”—in other words, how to use, not abuse, the language. You wi l l learn how usage changes, why it changes, and
why certain changes have been accepted and others have not. I wi l l also cover some perplexing problems of usage that trouble even the best writers and speakers. Final ly, I wi l l address the issue of
rules—good rules versus bad rules—and discuss how you can strike a balance between current standard usage and what seems natural and correct to you.
Bui lding a powerful vocabulary and learning how to use words properly require that you also develop your knowledge of a related subject: pronunciation.
It is a sad fact that many educated people who have invested a great deal of time and energy bui lding impressive vocabularies have not bothered to learn how to pronounce the words they have
acquired. That deficiency leads to a twofold tragedy. First, to those who look up to the speaker as a more knowledgeable person, the mispronouncer does the disservice of passing along his or her
mispronunciations. Second, to those who know something about words and how they should be pronounced, the mispronouncer, no matter how intel l igent, wi l l appear uneducated, even fool ish.
The point is, if you have taken the time to learn the meaning of a word and how to use it properly, then why not also learn how to pronounce it correctly?
With Verbal Advantage, not only wi l l you learn the proper pronunciation of words that are new to you, you wi l l also learn to avoid common mispronunciations of fami l iar words—ones you may be
mispronouncing right now without real izing it. In addition, I wi l l teach you some simple techniques that wi l l Giúp you continue to improve your speech on your own.
Bui lding your vocabulary is the primary goal of this program, and research has shown that the most effective way to bui ld your word power rapidly and permanently is to learn words in their order
of difficulty. Certain words are harder than others; therefore it stands to reason that you have to know the easier words before you can learn and retain the harder ones. When you know what reckless
and rash mean, you’re ready to learn the more difficult synonyms impulsive, imprudent, and impetuous. And when you have those words under your belt, then you can tackle the chal lenging
synonyms precipitate and temerarious.
In short, you are far more l ikely to remember words if you are exposed to them in ascending order of difficulty. That is why I have made Verbal Advantage a graduated vocabulary-bui lding
program, which means the words get harder as you go along.
You wi l l proceed through ten levels of vocabulary, each level more chal lenging than the last. For example, Level 1 contains words fami l iar to about 60 to 70 percent of adults—that is, words
known to many high school graduates and most col lege graduates. By the end of Level 5 you wi l l have raised your vocabulary to about the 75th percenti le—the top quarter of al l educated adults. By
the end of Level 8 your vocabulary wi l l have surpassed that of most executives and professionals, including those with advanced degrees. And when you complete the tenth and final level you wi l l
have progressed beyond 95 percent of the entire population. You wi l l command an armory of words that only a handful of people in every thousand can match.
Each level of Verbal Advantage focuses on special ly selected “keywords” essential to educated discourse. But those words constitute only a fraction of what you’ l l learn from this book.
Careful ly study al l the keyword discussions and you wi l l learn scores of useful related words and a plethora (PLETH-uh-ruh, great number or quantity, abundance) of chal lenging synonyms and
antonyms. You wi l l also discover where the words you are learning come from and how their history has influenced their current meaning.
In addition to bui lding your vocabulary, Verbal Advantage wi l l guide you in the subtleties of using the language properly and precisely. Each level contains interludes on commonly misused
words, commonly confused words, and commonly mispronounced words. You wi l l learn how to avoid various errors of grammar, diction, and pronunciation that vex even the most educated adults. I
wi l l show you how to el iminate redundancies—flabby, repetitive phrases—from your writing and speech, and Giúp you heed the advice of Mark Twain, who said, “Use the right word, and not its
second cousin.” Final ly, the synonym studies in the keyword discussions wi l l develop your abi l ity to distinguish wisely between words of simi lar meaning.
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