A great vocabulary is just one essential tool in a writer’s toolbox, along with punctuation, grammar, and many others. Vocabulary can make your writing more powerful and more effective and help you say exactly what you mean. This indispensable tool will help you choose the best word for every job and avoid vague words that do not give your readers a good sense of your meaning.
Building your vocabulary is one of the easiest ways to improve the power of your writing and make any writing task that much easier, as you will have several synonyms in your repertoire to pull from every time. Developing your vocabulary need not be difficult or painful. Here are 25 ways you can improve your writing vocabulary every day.
Use New Words
Use a word immediately after you learn it. Try to make a game out of using a new word as soon as you learn it. Every day, try to slip in a new word into the conversation, a journal entry, an assignment or an email to a friend. Do this as often as possible, and repeat the word to yourself.
Read Every Day
Once you’re out of school, word drills and assigned reading become things of the past. While these were tools for building your vocabulary repertoire while you were young, it doesn’t mean you should abandon reading. Try to read a well-written and edited essay, magazine article, book or news article every day. Nonfiction and technical books will quickly teach you new ways to think and speak with words you may be unfamiliar with, but any type of reading will help you along.
Develop Practical Vocabulary
This means you should start by learning words that express what’s important to you for the task at hand. A good example of this is learning trade language or words you use often in a hobby or vocation.
Learn New Words Every Day
To improve your vocabulary quickly, make an effort to learn at least one new word every single day. There are plenty of ways to do this, such as a Word of the Day calendar or email list, or simply picking a word from a dictionary.
Look up Words You Don’t Know
How often do you come across words that are unfamiliar as you read? Don’t just gloss over them; take the time to look them up, and if you don’t have the time right then, write them down and look them up later.
Keep a Journal
Journaling won’t just help you develop your writing style, it will also help you improve your vocabulary. Try to use new or interesting words you’ve learned recently into a journal entry for the day or the week.
Diversify Your Reading List
If you tend to read the same sort of things day in and day out, you may not be exposing yourself to a wide enough range of vocabulary. Diversify the topics you read to include natural science, Shakespeare, contemporary literature, politics, history, philosophy or any other topics you think you may enjoy.
Practice New Words in Divergent Ways
It takes between 10 and 20 repetitions to make a new word a part of your vocabulary. To help the word settle into your mind and memory, write it down (both the definition and a sentence you make up using the word), use it in conversation, include it in an email or any other way you can think of.
Make up Associations
Start by saying the new word aloud, then relate it to a word you already know. A good example of this is gargantuan, which means “very large” or “gigantic.” Say a sequence aloud: small, medium, large, very large, gargantuan. Then list things you think are gargantuan.
Make Your Own Vocabulary Tests
Keep a list of the new words you learn each week and incorporate into writing and conversation. At the end of each week, make yourself a quiz using the words to cement them in your memory.
Make Synonym Word Lists
Do you find yourself turning to the same word again and again? Grab a piece of paper and write it at the top. Next, brainstorm or use a thesaurus to generate a list of ten to twenty new words you can use instead. You can keep these lists in a vocabulary notebook and add to them whenever you learn a new synonym.
Move Words from Comprehensive to Expressive Vocabulary
You actually have two types of vocabulary: one is a much larger set of words you understand, even if only vaguely, and the other is a smaller set of words you actually use to express yourself. Moving words from your comprehensive, but passive vocabulary, to your active, expressive vocabulary is easier than you think. To do this, you’ll need to know how to define, pronounce and spell the words. Say them out loud and use them at every opportunity to move them into your active set.
Carry a Dictionary with You
How often do you find yourself with free time and nothing to do? Carry a pocket thesaurus or dictionary with you and you’ll find time to beef up your vocabulary while you’re waiting for an appointment, commuting to work or waiting for a bus. Whenever you have a few minutes to spare, read a page or two and learn a new word to add to your writing. It’s also a great idea to look up obscure words you don’t quite grasp that come to you on the fly as you go about your day. You can also use the dictionary or thesaurus to look up unfamiliar words you come across in your daily life.
There are tons of non-board games that will help you improve your vocabulary while you have fun. Try downloading fun word games onto your phone or computer so you can get some practice while you unwind after a busy day. Some games are designed to build vocabulary skills, but there are plenty of others that will help you practice spelling, phonics, and even typing skills. There are even some designed for college students to prepare for testing and vocabulary-rich exams.
Hopefully, this list has given you an excellent place to start to build your vocabulary a bit at a time. If you think about it, there are opportunities all around you to develop this important skill, so spend time every day reading and listening to take in new words and then develop a system to incorporate these new words in your writing and speech. Before long, you’ll find your vocabulary has grown to a new level and your writing has gained the clarity you need with an ease you didn’t think possible