How to improve your vocabulary with 7 powerful tips
Why is vocabulary important for good writing?
Similar to speaking vocabulary, writing vocabulary includes words that you can easily summarize and use. From verbs to adjectives and beyond, a strong vocabulary facilitates precise writing and helps you avoid vague words. As you expand your vocabulary, you will be better able to describe certain situations, emotions and ideas. You will also refine a skill known among writers as “painting with words”.
The most valuable vocabulary is that which you can retrieve and use on the spot. After all, learning vocabulary is only valuable if you can actually use your new words in a document and – just as important – use them correctly. If you ask published authors for writing tips, they will probably tell you that it is better to use common words correctly than to use complex words incorrectly. Fortunately, a major advantage of a better vocabulary is that you can use both common and complex words with equal precision.
7 Powerful tips to improve your vocabulary
Most people learn most of their vocabulary at school or university, so it is important to focus on it to get the most out of the time. Fortunately, even after this time you can always pick up where you left off. Here are some tips for students and adults to help them learn new vocabulary:
1. Develop a reading habit.
Building vocabulary is easiest when you encounter words in context. Seeing how words appear in a novel or newspaper article can be far more helpful than seeing them in vocabulary lists. Not only will you be confronted with unfamiliar words, but you will also see how they are used.
2. Use dictionaries and the thesaurus.
Online dictionaries and thesauruses are helpful resources when used correctly. There are many synonyms and sometimes one fits better into a context than another. A full dictionary definition can also educate you about antonyms, word stems and related words, which is another way to expand your vocabulary.
3. Play word games.
Classic games like Scrabble and Boggle can be a fun way to expand your vocabulary in your native language or even in foreign languages. Crossword puzzles can do the same. If you really want to be efficient, you should end the rounds of these word games with a little note. Keep a list of the different words you have learned during the game, and then repeat this list from time to time.
4. Use flashcards.
A quick way to build a large vocabulary is to learn a number of words using flashcards. In today’s digital age, a wide range of smartphone apps makes it easy to organize the use of flashcards. It makes sense to learn a new word every day. You can always strive for more, but it may not make sense to assimilate dozens of words every day.
5. Subscribe to the "Word of the day" feeds.
Some web platforms provide you with a word every day – either on a website, in an app or via email – to help you expand your vocabulary. You can add these words to running word lists.
6. Use mnemonics.
A mnemonic is a form of word association that helps you remember the definitions and correct use of words. For example, think of the English word “obsequious “, which means “trying to win the favour of influential people by flattery”. Break this word down into its component parts: “obse” is the beginning of “obsessed”, “qui” sounds like the French word for “yes” (oui), and “us” is like the word “us”. So you can imagine the big word “obsequious” as “obsessed with saying yes to us” – what it roughly means!
7. Practice using new words in conversation.
It is possible to accumulate a huge vocabulary without really knowing how to use words, which means that you will have to take it upon yourself to use your personal dictionary. If you come across an interesting word while reading it, you should definitely use it in conversation. By experimenting in informal situations, you can practice the art of word choice and use trial and error to find the right word for a particular context.
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