Writing Tools: Let’s Write Every Word Packed With Thoughts

Writing Tools: Let’s Write Every Word Packed With Thoughts

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go – W Shakespeare, Hamlet

Arup Chakraborty Updated: Sunday, December 10, 2023, 12:53 AM IST
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Understanding the significance of a word is the key to writing good and correct English. Most of the native speakers lack it, since the vocabulary of the English language is not a fixed list of words, but a growing developing store from which you can select a word that is apt to the meaning you want and to the situation you are in.

There are innumerable words to describe a particular situation, and it is not possible to know all the words. Nevertheless, there are a few words that you may use to communicate in English.

Once you have built up a basic vocabulary of English, you can say what you want to.

As a student of the English language when you begin to read newspapers, you often come across the words like pan-Indian, pan-European agreement and Pan-American movement. The word “pan” actually means a “pot.”

So just as you read any word with “pan” you are puzzled. When you ask your teachers about the meaning of “pan-” they will say, it is also a prefix meaning “all off.” So the pan-European agreement is an accord that involves all the countries in Europe. Similarly anti-European movement means a movement against Europe.

Therefore, there are innumerable words with prefixes – “pan and anti.” Good reading with a critical eye is necessary to improve vocabulary. Else a student or a writer is bound to make mistakes.

Loaded words

There are a few words that come with assumptions. They may not be universal – affordable, important, (in) appropriate, interesting, matters (as in this matters), relevant, sustainable. If something is interesting or relevant, it should be explained to whom it is important.

“Likely” should be used with caution

“Likely,” defines the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, having an appearance of truth or fact; that looks as if it would happen, be realised, or prove to be what is alleged or suggested; probable; to be reasonably expected to, to be.

If non-native speakers go by the meaning given in the SOED, they have to fathom the level of doubts to explain the actual significance of their sentence. So instead of “likely” for an unconfirmed figure or event, an author should opt for “may” or “might,” depending on what they want to say.

I hope that none of your friends are likely to come in –

EM Forster

The verb “hope” has added elegance to the adjective “likely.”

It seems likely that St Paul’s was the church that Edmund was going to – A Thwaite

Surveys carried out last winter have helped to predict likely road conditions – Lancaster Guardian

Lane Green writes: “Likely is predominantly an adjective in British English. Avoid adverbial constructions such as "he will like announce the date on Monday and the price will likely fall when results are posted Friday.” He is likely to announce. It is, however, better to avoid this word. “He may announce" is a clearer and punchier sentence than "he is likely to announce.”

Now if you say one million people are “likely” to attend a religious congregation, you are close to the truth, though you cannot justify it.

Similarly if you say one million people may take part in a religious congregation, you are holding out the possibility about the number.

It is better to use “likely” with the verbs like “hope,” “predict,” “seem” as well-known British authors have done. When “likely” is employed as an adverb, idiom calls for preceding it with “very,” “quite” or “most.”

Likely or apt?

It is difficult to choose between “likely” and “apt.” A person who is scared of ghosts is “apt” to turn “pale” at night. The American Heritage Dictionary says, “Apt and likely, when followed by infinitives, are often interchangeable.”

Likely is always appropriate when mere probability is involved: The weather office predicts it is likely to rain.

Nevertheless, when probability is based on a natural or known tendency, “apt” is the right choice.

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