We are constantly learning new words throughout our lives, but there are several reasons you may want to focus on improving your vocabulary. Whether you are entering a field with difficult jargon or just tired of feeling lost at the use of complex words, developing a better vocabulary can help you speak confidently about diverse topics and better express your thoughts. This can not only assist you in social settings, but in occupational settings as well. Properly using more advanced vocabulary words will speak volumes about your professionalism and education. Here are seven tips and methods you can utilize to enhance your vocabulary.
- More than just meaning
While learning the denotation, or literal meaning, of different words is an essential part of growing your vocabulary, it is also important to understand the practical usage and various connotations. Try to find example sentences using each word and figure out the intended meaning. Do people typically use the word with a positive or negative connotation? Is it an insult or a compliment? Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell without hearing somebody use it in person; hence, reaching out to somebody who is already familiar with the word can be a useful approach.
- Look at the roots
As one of the romance languages, English has a huge Latin component and also takes a good bit of influence from the Greek language and some other miscellaneous languages as well (Wilton, 2001). Because of this, learning some Latin and Greek roots can aid tremendously in breaking down difficult vocabulary words. Here are a few examples of roots that commonly show up in the English language.
–Latin roots: dict (to say), ambi (both), bene (good), circum (around)
–Greek roots: auto (self), bio (life), homo (same), hydr (water)
- Implement new words
It is easy to forget the meaning of a word if you never use it, so do not be afraid to try out the words you have learned. Use it in an essay or just casually in conversation. Each repetition will reinforce the meaning and usage, making it more easily accessible in the future. If you hear somebody else use a word that you are not familiar with, make sure to ask them what it means and add it to your database.
- Read and write
Reading exposes you to a copious amount of new words and writing requires you to use them. Try to find material that is challenging to read and then take note of any words you don’t understand. While the context can often give away the meaning, it is still useful to create a list of new words and look up the meanings. If having to constantly stop to search for the meaning of a word is too frustrating, then you can also try highlighting them and returning later.
- Use a thesaurus
Whenever you are writing, keep a thesaurus nearby. It is an excellent reference for enhancing your writing and improving your vocabulary. Figure out which words are repeated too frequently and use the thesaurus to search for a suitable replacement. Also, consider any situations where a better word could be substituted. Look for words such as: “stuff,” “good,” “nice,” “things,” or “said”. These words can all be replaced with either a less ambiguous noun or a more powerful verb/adjective.
- Make flashcards
Make flashcards that include the definition, the part of speech, usage in a sentence, and other information that will help you recall the word. This should not only help you remember the new vocabulary words, but it will also allow you to start adding them into your daily conversation. Try running through your note cards with a friend or consider making it a competition. There are also several online applications available that can assist in creating flashcards. For an example, see Quizlet.
- Vocabulary Quizzes
There are two types of vocabulary quizzes. Those covering terms you have already studied and those covering brand new terms. Quizzing yourself over previously studied vocabulary terms can help you check if you have actually retained the information. Quizzing yourself over new vocabulary, on the other hand, can access your current vocabulary level and allow you to learn from your mistakes. Merriam-Webster offers a free vocabulary quiz and weekly challenge. Click here to take the quiz and see how you compare with your age group.