The Articulate Professional
- Invigorating and expanding your communication skills
| Words of the Month | Book | About V.J. Singal | Contact Us | Blog | Home Page |
The Articulate® Professional, 3rd edition
Plus, view these COMPLETE sections from the book:Preface to the 3rd Edition
Building a Wide and Vivid Vocabulary - Why Bother?
The Articulate Professional's Unique Features
The words in The Articulate® Professional are selected from our extensive database that documents the vocabulary being used by today's most articulate Americans to emphasize an accomplishment, highlight a challenge, assert a point of view, and incite others to action.
Preface to the 3rd Edition
Download this section, as it appears in the book
The principal animating force behind my writing this all-new version of "The Articulate Professional," after a gap of over a dozen years, has been the deep appreciation for the previous edition still expressed by people in a breadth of professions and occupations. CEOs and other top executives, senior managers, salespersons, medical doctors, engineers and architects, attorneys, school teachers and administrators, college professors, other educators, and college and high school students... indeed, people from all walks of life! And speaking of school officials, I'll never forget a phone call from a high school principal here in Houston, shortly after the publication of the first edition in 1993. "I'm carrying a copy of your book with me wherever I go (as a resource for emphasizing key points during meetings)," he said. I was immensely flattered, even if I felt that his actually carrying a copy everywhere he went was perhaps a bit excessive.
Before highlighting some of the numerous changes and enhancements in this new edition, let me first reassure users of previous versions that this book retains all of the chief attributes that readers said made the previous editions so useful. In fact, several entries now have more than the customary two Workplace Examples, which were the previous editions' most popular feature; you will also find some illustrations of such workplace uses under Other Examples, in the guise of "this author saying: ..." or "an employee saying: ..." and so on.
To substantially increase the power of "The Articulate Professional," I've dropped dozens of words that were featured in the 2nd edition because they had become relatively common during the past decade, and therefore justified substitution by entries that better met my criteria for inclusion. A word should be stirring, not very common, have the capacity to make an utterance more vivid and evocative and therefore more recallable, and above all, it must pass the most crucial test: that the word be in the conversational vocabulary of America's most articulate.
A few of the 70+ words that have been deleted are: affront, anecdotal, antipathy, conundrum, debunk, disavow, disingenuous, dogged, embolden, euphemism, foreshadow, impassioned, imperil, infinitesimal, onerous, oxymoron, palpable, pedestrian, plethora, squelch, tacit, tenet, trepidation, and untenable.
Some of the 100+ entries that make their debut in "The Articulate Professional" are: acerbic, atmospherics, automaton, balkanize, chimerical, defang, disabuse, ennui, epochal, equanimity, Faustian, fillip, gravitas, inimical, intemperate, laconic, meretricious, milieu, nostrum, obdurate, opprobrium, perfunctory, profligate, puppeteer, retrograde, sagacious, Sisyphean, soporific, supine, trenchant, unalloyed, verve, visceral, and zeitgeist.
There is a new section devoted exclusively to words of praise. As I'm sure you too have observed, the typical praise both in the workplace and at social events--such as galas--is composed entirely of trite words and expressions and thus lacks pulse. Result: the praise delivered by a boss for one employee sounds no different than that for the next employee, as if the two were clones, leaving the person who is being praised underwhelmed and disillusioned. Worse, it's a wasted opportunity to inspire the employee. While there are dozens of words scattered throughout the book that can be used to commend someone memorably--as was the case in the previous editions--the idea of adding a section devoted solely to certain "choice" words for lauding somebody crystallized shortly after a reader emailed me. Eric Opp, a manager for Sterling Commerce, contacted me to express his frustration at not easily finding strong and fresh words to extol the talents of his employees. The enlightened Mr. Opp is clearly someone who realizes how much more effective praise can be if it's not only genuine and sincere, but also does not come across as humdrum and hackneyed.
Another noteworthy enhancement is my having squeezed in several hundred additional Other Examples so that you can accelerate your "owning" of a featured word, and begin employing it in conversation almost immediately.
Finally, as in the past, every page has two or more examples linked to famous (or infamous) persons, events, organizations, or other entities. The purpose is to help make a word easier to internalize and cement into your memory. However, I must emphatically state that such examples are not meant to endorse, even in the remotest sense, any particular side in the deep and harsh political divide that currently characterizes our nation. I am an independent and strive to keep my illustrations completely apolitical.
I'm extremely grateful to Susan Breeden and Mary Ellis for their editorial assistance. Their sharp minds and keen eyes have helped ensure that grammar and other errors are kept to an absolute minimum. Still, if you the reader notice any, don't hesitate to let me know by picking up the phone or emailing me.
As I continue my voyage to identify words that ought to be featured in "The Articulate Professional" or its upcoming sequel, "The Articulate Professional II," your suggestions regarding which ones ought to be added--or deleted--are most welcome.
Building a Wide and Vivid Vocabulary - Why Bother?
Download this section, as it appears in the book
On each anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we Americans get to hear, in the voice of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the opening words from a speech he delivered to Congress one day after the Japanese attack: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States was . . ." Clearly, it is the word "infamy" that endows that line with so much impact and firmness. What if FDR had stuck with his original draft, worded "...a date which will live in world history..." Would the opening line of that speech still be so resonant and a fixture of American history, replayed in news programs and documentaries year after year, more than six decades later? Hardly!
The above is perfect testimony to the power of a word that is forceful, vivid, and out-of-the-ordinary. As a matter of fact, whenever people ask me why it pays to have an extensive vocabulary, my first sentence is all-encapsulating: "Because it helps make one's life more fulfilling!" Indeed, if you have a strong command of the language, and provided you use it imaginatively and sensibly, you will be able to generate, when the occasion demands, a verbal expression that comes across as original, fresh, interesting, and appropriately vivid (rather than sounding tired, humdrum, and banal). Whatever your message--be it an exhortation, praise for someone, or a statement of accomplishments and challenges--it will be far more likely to grab people's attention and be indelible if you use language effectively. The result: You will have a sharply enhanced ability to affect and sway others.
Here's a personal story that further substantiates my claims, especially with regard to capturing people's attention and inciting them to action:
So, to repeat my assertion, a superior command of the language, provided it is used appropriately and judiciously (i.e. you do not turn into a "verbal machine gun," pompously spewing out obscure and incomprehensible words by the second), can make you more successful in influencing others. At key moments, it will lessen the chances of your sounding trite, and increase the probability of your striking the right chord with the listener. And that is why a wide and vivid vocabulary is an extraordinary asset, no matter what your role in life--whether you are a CEO steering a behemoth corporation; a school principal striving to enhance your academic institution's performance; a parent admonishing your high schooler; a medical doctor exhorting your patient to do the right thing; a graphic designer impressing upon a client the nuances and merits of your design; an administrative assistant attempting to dissuade a superior from pursuing a certain course of action; a sports coach or a soccer mom at an awards ceremony, praising a team member's contributions.... Indeed, there are infinite situations in everyone's life when using an expression that is rich, evocative, and forceful will increase the likelihood of achieving one's purpose.
So high is the correlation between the ability to articulate well and the ability to influence others that when hiring or promoting, top executives consistently cite strong communication skills as one of the most important attributes they look for in an employee. In fact, The Wall Street Journal once cited a study by the Illinois human resources assessment firm London House, in which CEOs of Fortune 500 companies scored better in fluency of verbal expression and breadth of the English language than nine out of ten high-level executives and managers.
Thus, it's no surprise that one of the attributes that distinguishes many of those who are leaders in their fields happens to be their ability to articulate their thoughts extremely well. To name just a few of these influential voices who possess an extremely vigorous vocabulary: Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, Carly Fiorina, and Larry Ellison among current and former corporate chiefs; Rudy Giuliani, Richard Scruggs, and Joel Klein among attorneys and prosecutors; E.O. Wilson and the late Carl Sagan among scientists; Colin Powell among top military brass; Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Condoleezza Rice among high-level presidential cabinet officials; Marin Alsop and the late Kirk Varnedoe among leading personalities in the worlds of music and art; and Bruce Hoffman among anti-terrorism experts. Again and again, you will find them using vibrant, high-caliber words to speak forcefully when emphasizing a point or battling a critic.
Enough generalization--let's turn to specifics. Recall that I began by saying that a wide and vivid vocabulary helps make one's life more fulfilling. Let me highlight five ways that words such as those featured in this book (and in its upcoming sequel "The Articulate Professional II") can indeed help make your life more productive, more fun, more rewarding, and more pleasant.
1. Breaking through the "verbal clutter"; making a statement more attention-getting and penetrating by inserting just one high-impact word.
The two opening stories--the one about FDR's "infamy speech" and my letter to CBS--serve as solid evidence as to how the appropriate injection of just one strong and conspicuous word can help seize people's attention, and sometimes even incite them to action. Following is another example, this one involving the eminent Robert Gates. It too highlights how a high-caliber word, thanks to its penetrating quality, can add much emphasis and weight to your argument.
The next time you are in a meeting or watching a discussion on television, see for yourself how the difference in level of resonance is often quite palpable between an adjective that is fresh and robust versus one that is stale and humdrum.
Finally, the need and capacity to inject a strong, out-of-the-ordinary word at a key moment, especially when you are trying to influence minds, is becoming more vital by the day, thanks to the verbal clutter in which everyone seems to be mired. People are constantly trying to sneak a look at their cell phones or BlackBerries in the middle of meetings or lunch conversations; it is a manifestation of how overwhelmed and distracted everyone is by the barrage of communications coming at them from all directions.
2. Putting words in people's mouths, literally; reshaping the discussion during a meeting.
Surely you've experienced situations when, during a meeting or other forum, somebody uses a descriptor that is fresh and captures the essence of the problem or issue being discussed. Almost instantly, everyone else starts using that very word or phrase to express their thoughts, and that in turn influences the substance and direction of the rest of the discussion. Such a phenomenon occurred during a meeting I had called in 1983, while working for the computer services division of Texas Instruments (TI), and it affected me profoundly. That afternoon, I was going around the room, giving each of the field managers in attendance about 2 to 3 minutes to respond to my question "What according to you are the primary reasons behind our slumping performance index?" About fifteen minutes into that session, one of the participants said: "V.J., the main reason for the falling productivity is that many of the communications from your headquarters here in Houston to my field office in Seattle are cryptic. Let me show you some recent examples ..." And then it happened! As I continued going around the room, each of the other participants began his response to my question by saying: "I too agree that communications from Houston are much too cryptic..." As you can imagine, the discussion for much of that afternoon was focused on these "cryptic" communications and what could be done to prevent them. What utterly amazed me about that day was the fact that even though "cryptic" was not a word that I could recall ever hearing in the corridors of TI, one person's use of that fresh, vivid term--which seemed to accurately describe the problem at hand--concentrated everyone else's mind, and swayed them into using the same adjective again and again during the rest of the meeting.
Since that meeting of 1983, I've observed on countless occasions somebody's use of a fresh, precise, and robust term turning out to be very "infectious." Like a powerful virus, use of the word or phrase causes others in the discussion to immediately begin to parrot it. For example, in the fall of 1995, when Colin Powell delivered a highly anticipated and nationally televised speech in which he announced he would not be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he used the word "incivility" to describe the character of the political discourse in America. For several weeks after that, "incivility" became the word of choice during TV talk shows, op-ed pieces, and letters to the editor.
Here's another illustration. During a "Charlie Rose" interview in 2008, Alice Waters, co-owner of Chez Panisse--one of America's most legendary restaurants--was lamenting how some books and films were indoctrinating Americans into "not bothering with the drudgery of the kitchen" and to instead rely on take-out, and that the purpose of her new book was to "empower people by demystifying the whole process (of preparing basic but delicious meals)." Immediately the verb "demystify" was on the lips of the interviewer, and "the demystification of cooking" became the centerpiece of a few minutes of discussion.
3. Using effective synonyms; embodying the defining trait of articulate people.
First, let me point out that there is no easier technique to elevate the quality of your oral communications than the use of synonyms or synonymous terms. Among other things, synonyms help give precision and accuracy to your expression; break monotony and boredom; and ensure complete understanding by the audience. But most important, synonyms reinforce your idea or message, the added thrust and vigor helping to increase recallability.
Second, because of their vigor and stirring quality, the words featured in this book make for wonderful and highly effective synonyms. Note that by the term "synonym" I do not imply "dictionary synonyms," but simply words or phrases that reinforce the thrust of a preceding word. There is further discussion on this subject, including an example of Oracle's Larry Ellison using one of this book's featured words as a synonym while talking about Bill Gates, in the first "Tips" example on page 13.
4. Injecting humor; endearing yourself to your audience.
This is best illustrated by some examples from the late and stunningly witty Louis Rukeyser, host of PBS's "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser"--the longest running and most successful investment program ever on television. During on-air conversations with the show's panelists and guests, Mr. Rukeyser, whose command of the language was second to none, would often use a high-caliber word to apply the technique of exaggeration for creating humor. For instance, once when asking for a stock pick from a panelist whose previous recommendation had turned out to be a bit disappointing, Mr. Rukeyser said with a smile: "What do you have for us this time, after that epochal mistake!" To be sure, there was laughter all around. Here are a few more examples of Mr. Rukeyser using a fresh, strong, and striking word to exaggerate and thus create humor.
I myself frequently use the above technique to inject humor--and thus endear myself to my audience--both during my workshops and in informal conversations.
5. Creating a favorable first impression; coming across as both interesting and intelligent in your first conversation with a new acquaintance.
You cannot escape the perhaps unfair presumption society makes about a person's level of education, depth of intellect, and status in the workplace hierarchy, based on his or her facility with words. Researchers say most people make their first impression of a person within the first couple of minutes. So, as you begin your first conversation with somebody, presumably that new acquaintance is making leaps of judgment about your background, personality, education, and status, based on how you express your thoughts and ideas.
Some prominent researchers claim to have established a high correlation between IQ and a person's command of the language, suggesting that a high IQ is a necessary condition for one to possess a prodigious vocabulary. Such a relationship does not surprise me. Over the past thirty years, three television personalities in particular have impressed me with the vibrancy of their verbal expression, and their ability to use a wide variety of words to emphasize a point. They are Louis Rukeyser, Gene Siskel, and William F. Buckley Jr., and there's no question that each of them was supremely intelligent. Therefore, one corollary of the presumed correlation between IQ and a vivid vocabulary is that when you use a variety of words during a conversation, you are displaying your high level of intelligence. Those likely to interview soon for a new job, take note.
A caveat: an expansive vocabulary, if used imprudently or without restraint, can create resentment and thus backfire. So, be sure to read the section ahead on "Tips."
The above are just some of the many ways you can use the words featured in this book to your immense advantage. There is more on my Web site, www.verbalenergy.com. Also, please consider joining me in one of the many workshops I present around the nation, exploring with participants the innumerable ways to make one's communications more attention-getting and effective.
I close with my opening theme, that a wide and vibrant vocabulary will enable you to quickly formulate, at key moments, communications that are impactful, indelible, and persuasive. You will unquestionably be endowed with a greater capacity to influence others.
The Articulate Professional's Unique Features
Download this section, as it appears in the book
This book will help you acquire the wide and vivid vocabulary used by America's most articulate when emphasizing accomplishments, highlighting challenges, asserting views, inciting others to action, and injecting humor. An equally important function of the book is to help you make your distinctive vocabulary versatile, i.e., to give you the ability to use each featured word in a variety of contexts and situations. Finally, this publication is designed expressly for those who are required to play vital communication roles, such as in meetings, presentations and speeches, interviews, important conversations, and of course, emails and letters.
On what do I base my bold claims? On this book's many unique features!
1. Words in the book have not been culled from the innermost recesses of the dictionary. Nor are they the type only known to and used by the late William F. Buckley Jr. Instead, they are selected from a proprietary and extensive database which, since the 1980s, has been amassing the words and phrases used by articulate Americans, especially thought leaders, in virtually all fields--including business, government, politics, education, science, and the arts. An important aspect of this prized database is that it not only establishes which high-caliber words are currently in use, but also how they are used.
2. Each entry meets stringent criteria for inclusion. Each featured word is (i) of sufficient caliber to help make one's communications strong and vibrant, and (ii) it passes my litmus test--while it is within the lexicon of articulate professionals, it lies outside the conversational vocabulary of the average well-educated American. It is for these reasons that users of the book's previous editions have had high praise for the quality of the featured words.
3. Designed to help implant the words in your mind. Skim the page of any featured word, and you'll notice that in the Main Example and at least one of the Other Examples the word is linked to a headline-making event or some well-known person or thing. The objective is to trigger graphic recall of something that might already be familiar to you and thereby embed the word in your memory. Of course, it also helps make the content interesting and fun to read. Incidentally, many users tell me that several of the workplace examples remind them vividly of situations they have personally encountered in the past, thus further cementing the word into their lexicon.
4. The focus is the workplace and on-the-job situations. Each page contains Workplace Examples illustrating both formal/semiformal use (such as during presentations, meetings, and email) and informal, off-the-cuff, or casual conversations (such as during lunch, around the coffee maker, or at the water cooler). Note that these workplace examples illustrate the actual speaking patterns of highly successful professionals. And to help you become adept in using a featured word when in the company of colleagues and friends, this new edition goes even further: for several of the entries, the first one or two Other Examples are really workplace examples, beginning with something similar to "this author saying," or "an employee saying."
5. Numerous and diverse examples to help you use the words with confidence. Thanks to our proprietary database also documenting how each high-caliber word is being used by articulate Americans, the body of examples for each word is painstakingly designed to cover all of the various senses that are currently being employed, thus providing you insight into the word's usage so that you can virtually "own" that word and begin using it with confidence. Additionally, if you study all the examples on a particular page closely and more than once, chances are that you will indeed internalize that word and find yourself using it from time to time when the occasion demands or when the situation is apt.
Also, because of the diversity of examples on each page, you are likely to learn many new uses for words that you might already be familiar with. For instance, the word "lionize" can be used not only in reference to a person but also for a thing, an idea, a quality, or an action; or that "strident" can be used not only to describe a person's criticism or style of speaking but also for a color, a piece of clothing, an advertisement, or to describe differences. You will similarly learn that "Olympian" can be used to describe somebody's manner, attitude, responsibilities, intellect, and performance standards. And when you study the page for "opprobrium," you'll learn that it is something that can be earned; it can be attached to something or heaped on somebody; a person or thing can exist in a state of opprobrium or become a target of it; and that a word or phrase can become a term of opprobrium. That is how "The Articulate Professional" will help you build a vocabulary that is not only wide and vivid but also versatile! You'll be able to apply a particular word in numerous situations and, alternately, you'll have many more word options to use in any given situation.
6. To facilitate relatively quick use, words are grouped according to their most closely related workplace theme. One category contains words to describe accomplishments and justify actions, another category comprises words to specify criticism or disapproval, a third to praise somebody, and so on. More on this in the next section.
To provide a context for their introduction, the featured words are divided into nine categories, the grouping having been done according to their most relevant workplace function. However, the categories are by no means mutually exclusive. For example, the term "imprimatur," featured in Category I, could very well be used while discussing a company's shortcomings (the theme of Category II), or equally well while praising a person (Category VII). Finally, note that the words within each category are organized in the order of most common to least common.
Category I: Highlighting Accomplishments and Justifying Efforts & Goals. These words help you highlight your accomplishments and strengths with specificity and in a dignified manner, without sounding like a braggart or being shrill about it. They also help you describe or justify your actions, efforts, objectives, and goals. Finally, many of these words can even be used to cast a positive light on your struggles, setbacks, and disappointments.
Category II: Defining Problems. The words in this category offer a variety of ways to define problems and complicated situations, and why or how the odds are stacked against you. Using a robust and vivid word often elicits a stronger appreciation of your difficulties, helping you gain more empathy and patience. A crisp description of your handicap, burdens, or obstacles begets more support from others.
Category III: Describing State of Mind and Feelings. These words refer to people's attitudes, likes and dislikes, as well as state of mind and feelings. An accurate depiction of your reactions and inclinations can give the audience a keener insight into the state of affairs, and thus a better appreciation of both your difficulties and opportunities.
Category IV: Describing Extremes. Entries in this category describe extremes such as too much or too little; very big or very small; unlimited or severely limited; harsh or mild; and so on. By highlighting problems and opportunities, the words can draw attention to the need for necessary action.
Category V: Specifying Criticism or Disapproval. The words featured here help you specify the true nature of your criticism, indignation, or unhappiness. They enable you to express your strong or vehement disapproval of what's going on. They can also be invaluable when cautioning somebody against a course of action.
Category VI: Describing Interpersonal Behavior and Style. These words help describe one's behavior, stance, attitude, action, style, and approach when dealing with people. Some may also help define a management style or characterize the overall climate of a workplace.
Category VII: Praising a Person or Thing. Here is a rich collection of words to deliver emphatic praise, such as when highlighting a person's accomplishments, habits, determination, judgment, foresight, and other qualities. In a world in which bosses and colleagues are often at a loss for stirring words to use when commending an employee, this section offers a potpourri of fresh and vibrant terms to emphasize somebody's contributions.
Category VIII: Delineating Cause and Effect. The words in this category are ideal for describing cause-and-effect relationships, forecasts, predictions, and expectations. These words can be extremely useful when discussing your hopes and fears.
Category IX: Words for Other Uses. This last category includes high-caliber words that do not fit neatly into any of the previous categories, but which apply to a variety of situations encountered in the workplace.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Why don't you feature harder words in "The Articulate Professional"?
Well, if we were to significantly elevate the level of difficulty of the average word in this book, I'd have to start including words such as nimiety, alterity, fugacious, inspissate, prestidigitation, ratiocination--words so obscure that they would qualify for the higher rounds of a spelling bee. It would be an understatement to say that using such words in the workplace or at social events would be unwise, pompous, and purposeless. Not only would your listeners not understand you, they would be turned off from the get-go.
2. What's the point in having words that I mostly recognize?
Sometimes, as they flip through the book's pages for the first time, people comment: "Oh, I recognize most of the words in the book, so I guess it's not going to be of much use to me." I have two responses to that: First, I would expect most well-educated people to recognize many of the featured words, considering that the words are heard or read in the media from time to time, otherwise they wouldn't be included in our database and therefore have no place in this book! Second and most importantly, just recognizing a word is not enough. Ask yourself the following two questions: "Can I use that word confidently and in a variety of contexts or situations?" and "Can I recall ever using that word?" What good is being able to "recognize" a word if you've never had the confidence to use it? I designed the content--especially the subject matter and diversity of the examples--with the objective to help lodge that word into your conversational vocabulary, thus raising the probability that you will end up using it, when the occasion and the intensity of feeling merit it.
3. Why do you use incomplete sentences in Other Examples?
For economy of space, just as in most dictionaries, almost all of the Other Examples have been written as sentence fragments. In other words, they are NOT designed to be complete sentences, which is why they don't begin with a capital letter.
As I am sure you'll agree, a critical ingredient of influence and persuasion is the ability to affect people, and to create lasting impressions and indelible images when speaking at key moments. The carefully selected words and conscientiously designed examples in "The Articulate Professional" are designed to help you do just that.
The following are samples of actual pages you will find in The Articulate® Professional.
Copyright © 1999 - 2017 by V.J. Singal. Articulate is a registered trademark.