There is an inherent power in being able to use the right words in the right context. But what is a “word”? When does a word like puebes meaning spanish? Is it when you can read, spell, or define it? Well, maybe. But there are other qualities that make up a word which we have yet to explore. One of these qualities is their frequency in your writing. Without knowing how often certain words or phrases might show up, you can’t be sure if they’re too common or too obscure for your purposes. You also shouldn’t shy away from words just because of their high frequency either — but you do have to be vigilant and decide whether these will ultimately help build your message or distract from it.

1. What is a Word?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (1) , “word” is “one of the units of language that native speakers can understand, use and generally recognize.” To be honest, the tech industry definitely has its own spin on this. And there are many people who will argue whether or not certain things should be considered words because they don’t fit into that first definition, but for now we’ll stick with this one.

2. How Many Words Are There?

The answer to this question really depends on a few different factors, but for our purposes I’ll just stick with one main factor: domain-specificity. A domain-specific word is a word that has been appropriated by one group of professionals and applied to their special field of expertise. For example, “iPhone,” “Foursquare,” and “Twitter” are all well-known domain-specific words in the tech world. But I’m sure you’ve noticed that these words don’t really fall under any other category. They don’t really fit into any other category in the dictionary.

This means that if you’re writing about modern technology, chances are you’ll have to use a lot of domain-specific words when discussing software or cell phones or IT, etc.. But this can be a good thing! Domain-specific words are usually easier to spell, they’re not multisyllabic, and they’re usually pretty new to the vocabulary world (but old in the technology world). This gives you more freedom to play around with them in your writing. Or it gives you freedom not to. But it’s totally up to you!

3. So… How Do Domain-Specific Words Affect Vocabulary?

It all depends on how often you want to use them. Fewer domain-specific words will help you communicate more effectively with less effort — but it also opens more doors for readers. This is because most people don’t know anything about the specific field of interest, so they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about unless it’s being discussed in that field. But if you use a lot of domain-specific words, your reader might get confused. He may not know how to refer to the software or hardware itself, or he might be worried that reading the rest of your text will just cause him to miss out on important bits of information. Sometimes a reader will just get mad and stop reading, but if you use a lot of domain-specific words, you might get your message across — just maybe not in the way you intended. On the other hand, if you use the most common words in your text, your reader will be able to follow along without much difficulty. But if your reader isn’t familiar with these words, there’s a risk that he won’t understand what or why you’re writing. That may not be such a big deal — unless it happens to be your thesis statement.

4. How Do I Know Which Words Are Domain-Specific?

There are two ways to find out which words are domain-specific. The first is to look at a thesaurus and make your own decision. These will give you an idea of how many words there are that aren’t used in everyday writing. However, these won’t tell you what field of expertise they’re used in, so it’s better to consult another source that can do both.

The best way to find out which words are domain specific is by reading more books or articles on the subject matter that your text falls under and taking note of any uncommon words you come across. This way, you’ll know whether or not a word is common enough for your purposes.

5. How Do Domain-Specific Words Fit Into My Writing?

The easiest way to do this is to just be aware of which words you’re using. Are you using too many, too few, or just the right amount? It all depends on what your goals are and how your readers will interpret your work. You might want to include more domain-specific terms because they make reading easier or they help prove a point (expert vocabulary). Or you might want to avoid domain-specific words so that you can appeal to a wider range of readers (everyday vocabulary). There are no right choices when it comes to this because both types of vocabulary can be used effectively in different situations. So don’t feel like you have to choose one or the other, but rather feel free to expand your vocabulary however you see fit. And if you are going to use domain-specific words in your writing, make sure you know how often — and where — you should use them.


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