Building a Great Vocabulary (and Why You Should)

It may not seem like something that matters much, but having a good vocabulary will help you communicate well and make a good impression on other people.  An incredible vocabulary will also help you understand a variety of subjects; you’ll grasp and communicate ideas more fluently.  (It’s also way easier to nail those ever-tricky SATs.)  Here are just a few tips to get you going.

Read and Listen – You probably hear all the time that you should read more, but reading will definitely help you increase your vocabulary. It doesn’t just have to be books that you must read; you can read articles in magazines, newspapers and online.  Just avoid reading tabloid style writing; rather read in-depth or journal-style articles. You can also increase your vocabulary by listening to or watching talk shows, news or documentary shows.  Listen to your friends, teachers and tutors for extra help in building your vocabulary. Not only will reading, listening and watching help in expanding your vocabulary, it will also expand your understanding of what’s happening in the world by increasing your knowledge of current events, geography and history.

Create a Vocabulary Journal – Whether it’s on your phone, tablet or in a book, take some time to write down any new words you come across.  Keep your vocabulary journal on you at all times – you never know when you’re going to run into a new word.  If you are reading, use a pen or highlighter to circle new words.  Wait until you’ve finished a passge before entering these words into your journal.  If you hear a word, but are unsure of the spelling, just work it out phonetically and use the internet or a dictionary to find the correct spelling later.  Once you’ve written the new words in your journal, you have to find out the meaning or you’ll never be able to use the word properly.  To find the meaning your can either use a dictionary.  But, as a bonus, most online dictionaries will also give you the option of hearing how the word is pronounced.  Strengthen your vocabulary further by finding synonyms or antonyms.  You can also divide your journal into subject sections where you can write terminology specific to a certain class or novel.  Of course, it’s always helpful to read through your vocabulary journal on occasion to refresh your memory.

Use Your New Words: It’s pointless to create a vocabulary journal that you never use.  Refer to your journal frequently.  Try to use at least three of the words you have collected in normal situations. The more you practice using the words the more likely you will remember them. You can also use your journal to help you when writing essays or completing tasks.  Using your new vocabulary will also help you in judging when it is appropriate to use certain vocabulary so you don’t seem too verbose or pretentious.  No matter what, increasing your vocabulary, even slightly will help you to communicate your ideas more effectively.

Develop an enjoyment in growing your vocabulary; you will then be more willing to strengthen your language. Having a good grasp of language will help you become an effective communicator in both written and verbal expression. You want to be able to understand what you are learning as well as be able to contribute your ideas without being hampered when you can’t find the right words. Remember that words are useless if you don’t know their meanings or how to use them.  But, they can be ever so powerful, just think of your favorite books, songs and movies.