Ready? Set? Go.

Before I begin, let me set the scene: which word sets itself above all others?

I set off to find out.

Set your eyes on this

The largest set of definitions in the current Oxford English Dictionary is: set. It’s set apart by having 60,000 words devoted to it (or about half a novel’s worth).

A whole set of meanings

Set is pretty versatile. A hen might set on her eggs, but don’t confuse it for leaving a soufflé to set. Or setting it down on your plate. Or a heavy-set hen (set on finding her missing eggs) setting on you with her beak. Or how the setting sun is an ideal setting to set up your paint set. Okay. I’ve read set too many times now and it’s gone all weird on me.

Don’t just set pen to paper

It’s worth remembering how much meaning just one word can hold. Don’t set yourself up for failure by using something you overheard that sounded smart. If you don’t understand a word fully and the context you should use it in – don’t use it. There are plenty of other ways to say what you mean. And they’ll be a lot more natural.

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