In a letter to a university professor, I wrote "as a prominent Japan scholar with an ample knowledge of...." But in retrospect, I wonder if I should have said "vast" or "extensive" instead of "ample."

My worry is that "ample" may suggest that something is just sufficient enough, not exceedingly good in amount. Am I worrying too much? (which I hope will be the case!)

  • I'd be more concerned with "Japan scholar".
    – Catija
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:10
  • "Ample knowledge" is an ucommon collocation, with no results in the major corpora. "Vast knowledge" is more common, with 8 results in the BNC and 66 in COCA; and "Extensive knowledge" is relatively common, with 21 results in BNC and 115 in COCA. This may mean that "extensive" is the best choice; because it is a common collocation, it is perhaps less likely to be seen as boastful immodest. However, since you have already described yourself in the letter as a "prominent scholar", such a concern may be moot. Jul 4, 2017 at 3:10
  • @Catija I thought so as well, but a bit of searching seems to show that this is a standard form of attributive. See e.g.: wilsoncenter.org/opportunity/competition-for-japan-scholars and neh.gov/humanities/2010/mayjune/conversation/the-china-scholar . (I learn as much here as the "learners".) Jul 4, 2017 at 3:13
  • @P. E. Dant Thank you for sharing your research results. I actually googled the phrase right after I sent the letter and since it showed such few hits that it made me worried. But your comment and the answer from Andrew have eased my worries.
    – Pororoca
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:56
  • @P. E. Dant By the way, I actually found the Wilson Center’s ad a bit confusing. I thought “a Japan scholar” refers to a person in academia who researches about Japan, not a researcher whose nationality is Japanese. The site is using “Japan” and “Japanese” interchangeably but there is a big difference, isn’t there?
    – Pororoca
    Jul 4, 2017 at 3:57

2 Answers 2


In this context it's fine. "Ample" usually means "more than enough". "Extensive" might have sounded a little better, since it means "to a great extent or widespread", but there's nothing wrong with what you wrote.

  • Great relief! Thank you so much for your explanation and reassurance.
    – Pororoca
    Jul 4, 2017 at 6:12

Yes, you should lose sleep over this, and chew your nails too.

These are the adjectives you can use when flattering a scholar about his or her knowledge: extensive, vast, wide, deep, unsurpassed, unmatched, unparalleled, incomparable, unrivaled, unequaled.

Anything else is faint praise.

  • Darn! I know I should. Haha. I guess I was worrying about nothing. Thank you so much for the great list of adjectives. They will help me to become a better xss kisser!
    – Pororoca
    Jul 4, 2017 at 12:42

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