Word Choice: Finding the right word in the E-E dictionary

It's obvious to any writer that only a well-chosen word will convey the writer's meaning accurately to the reader. It is not so obvious to many inexperienced writers, however, that they often use the wrong word; they often assume that the word they have in mind is the correct word. And it is not so easy for inexperienced writers to find the right word even when they do know that they need a better word. Another reason for incorrect word choice is laziness, or that biggest obstruction to language development, the daech'ungjui mentality. Use one of the procedures presented below to make sure that you are using the right word.

Using Longman's Language Activator

See "Word Choice: Longman Language Activator" on our Web site (EXTRAS > General).

Using Dictionaries

1. In your Korean-English dictionary find the word that best expresses the meaning you want to express.

Several English "equivalents" will probably be listed there. One of them may be the word that you need, but beware: there are many "false friends" among Korean and English words.

2. In an English-English dictionary check the Korean-English dictionary's suggestions (the English words).

Look in an English-English dictionary that has been published in either Great Britain or the United States. (Don't use an English-Korean or English-English-Korean dictionary.) See which word is best for the meaning that you want to express: Be sure to look at both the definitions AND the sample sentences.

3. Analyze the word's grammar.

Study the definition, grammar notes, and the sample sentences.

Here's an example of how you can use the dictionary to find the right word and the right way to use it. In the classroom the teacher asked me a question; I was unable to come up with the answer; I was silent, he looked at his watch and asked me, "Do you know the answer?" and all the students stared at me, so it was impossible for me to come up with the answer. In short, I became danghwang.

1. I look up the Korean word in the Essence Korean-English dictionary.

danghwang: be confused (flustered, bewildered, embarrassed); be perplexed.

I learned in high school that in English, danghwang is 'embarrassed,' so I select it as my tentative choice.

2. I look up the word in an English-English dictionary.

In the Collins COBUILD dictionary I find "shy, ashamed or guilty." But that doesn't express the confu-sion that I felt when I couldn't come up with the answer. (Actually, embarrassment is a result of confu-sion and doesn't mean confusion itself, so embarrass is not a good word for danghwang.)
So I consider the word 'confused,' but I know that word pretty well, and I want a word to express how upset I felt. How about the word 'flustered'?
In Collins, for 'fluster' it says "If you fluster someone, you make them feel nervous and confused by rushing them and preventing them from concentrating on what they are doing." Then it presents an example: "Go away, you're flustering me." And then it presents the form 'flustered.' After that it presents sample sentences that show how to use the different forms of the word: "The teacher grew flustered and curiously cross . . . He was so flustered he forgot it."
That's exactly what I want! I felt that the teacher--everyone in the classroom, in fact--was pushing me for an answer, which made me nervous and prevented me from concentrating. I'll use 'fluster' or 'flustered.'

3. I study the grammar of the word in the definition and the sample sentences.

The definition says, "If you fluster someone," so that means I can say "The teacher's question flustered me." The grammar note in the margin tells me that 'fluster' can also be used as a noun, so I can say, "I got flustered when the teacher asked me a difficult question." And one sample sentence says, "He was so flustered he forgot it."


So now I know that 'embarrassed' is the wrong word, and that I can use either the word 'fluster' or 'flustered.' I have found the best word to express my meaning, and I know how to use it with the correct grammar!