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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Writing Words

One of the GRE’s favorite topics on Text Completions and Sentence Equivalence questions is writing. Lucid writing, dull writing, an author who is pompous, a work that scintillating…the permutations on this theme are innumerable. Luckily, there are only so many words that can apply to writing.

Below is but a sampling of such words. Of course these words can come up in many different contexts. For instance, the finding of a scientist may be inscrutable to the layman, a politician’s comments can be opaque, and, speaking of politicians, they  may definitely be grandiloquent.


Literally, this word implies that something cannot be seen through. Think of a wall. You can’t see through it (unless, you’re Superman!).  If we were to apply this word to writing, what would we get? Well, writing that is very difficult to understand. Hopefully, none of the above is opaque!

Key synonyms include inscrutable and impenetrable.



If you wield the pen, the way a centurion wields a sword, cutting through controversial arguments, with scathing wit, then you are a polemical writer. The exact definition is writing and speech that is controversial and disputatious. With election year upon us (at least in the U.S.), you can bet there will be a surge in the number of polemical writings that show up in newspapers.



Writing that is crystal clear is pellucid. Notice how ‘lucid’ has squeaked into the last part of the word. ‘Lucid’, too, means very clear, especially in terms of writing or explanations. As for the ‘pel’ it morphed, over the ages, from the Latin ‘per’, which means through (but you don’t have to remember any of this etymological stuff, as you want to keep your definition of ‘pellucid’ pellucid).



Notice the ‘grand’, which means large, and ‘loq’, which means to speak. This word does not mean fond of using really large words (that would be ‘sesquipedalian’, which is not a GRE word, but is a good nugget of trivia).

Important synonyms for grandiloquent are bombastic and pompous.



Literally, ‘turgid’ means swollen and bloated. When applied to writing, ‘turgid’ means swollen with words. You know, those 19th Century British novels in which the author feels impelled to use a 143-word sentence to simply convey that ‘the man walked across the room.’

‘Turgid’ also connotes pomposity. So not only is the turgid writer stuffing words, but he is doing so in a way that he (or she) is clearly full of himself. To avoid sounding turgid, I will take my exit, lest I see myself a great writer of yore, flourishing my pen with a grandiloquent air, aiming for the pellucid, but landing far closer to the opaque, always stuffy and anodyne, and never polemical…wait, it’s too late. I apologize!


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3 Responses to GRE Vocab Wednesday: Writing Words

  1. Geet September 13, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    Without sounding gradiloquent , I want to say this lesson is pelucid and will help me understand opaque comprehension paragraphs . I hope my comment doesn’t sound turgid 🙂 in simple words , I loved this post !

    • Geet September 13, 2012 at 2:00 am #

      please ignore the typos 😀

    • Chris Lele
      Chris September 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Great! I’m happy it inspired your own snippet of grandiloquence :).

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