Here’s the tenth of 12 ads from the 1982 “Power of the Printed Word” ad campaign by International Paper Company. I’m offering the series as an inspiration to your staff, co-workers – and you – to communicate more effectively and understand the benefits of doing so – not just at work but in life.


Tenth in the series:  “How to improve your vocabulary” by Tony Randall

Here are an odd couple of observations: Low “lexical richness” (the number of words you use in your writing) can be very effective. In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway wrote “I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks” and otherwise tapped a relatively shallow pool of words to write some of America’s greatest novels. On the other hand, when I was in about seventh grade, one day my mother said, “Michael, it would behoove you to improve your vocabulary.” So, which is it?

On the face of it, it seems Tony Randall, the author of this “How to” post, is arguing for the latter. But is he? Perhaps he’s saying a better vocabulary makes it easier to access the best word – not the biggest – to most-accurately communicate what you mean.

Pull quote: “The English language has more than 1,000,000 words, but the average adult has a vocabulary of only 30,000 to 60,000.”