8 Great Tips to boost your vocabulary

Photo courtesy Cindy Walcott

Photo courtesy Cindy Walcott

My vocabulary is the result of a life-long love affair with words. It didn’t hurt that I was raised by a former proofreader for Merriam-Webster and a New York Times crossword puzzler.

I keep a vocabulary notebook. Next to this notebook I keep my dictionary (an old-fashioned printed dictionary, a Merriam-Webster of course). Whenever I encounter a word I don’t know, I put it in my notebook and look it up.

I learn a lot of new words; I probably forget a lot more. I have found the best way to retain new words is to use my new words. Also, I –

Read – I think this is by far the best way to learn new words. Magazines, books, blogs, websites. If you carry a book around and read while waiting at the doctor or Motor V, keep an index card and pen in your pocket or purse for new words you encounter on the go.

Google – Try Googling WOTD (word of the day) and you’ll be amazed at what happens! You will find a long list of WOTD sites to help you increase your vocabulary. You will find one just right for your needs.

Sign up – Subscribe to a word-a-day site and get new words sent to your inbox.

Learn in chunks – Dictionary.com has a great theme-related way to study words under subject headings, for instance culinary, performing arts, and sports. There are currently 76 decks of cards under the sports heading, so you can see where this can lead!

Pick up the thesaurus – When you discover a new word, pick up (or click) the thesaurus and find its synonyms, antonyms, etc.

Flex the word muscles – Play words games like Scrabble or do word puzzles or crosswords. Learn Q words – they help a lot in Scrabble!

Write sentences – A couple of months ago I read “carmine” in a book. I wasn’t sure what it meant so I looked it up. It means vivid red. So I wrote it in a few simple sentences. That lava is carmine. New Mexico sunsets are often carmine. I am angry and I am seeing carmine!

Use your new words – And look smarter! Use new words in correspondence, emails, Facebook posts, on your blog. Your friends will be impressed.

Here are a few of the recent entries to my vocabulary notebook – conciliate, plinth, carapace, fecund, susurration, portending, erudite, and farcical.

Please use one of my new words (from the list above) when you comment on this blog post!

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.” – Evelyn Waugh


Filed under Branding & Platform, Words & Vocabulary

14 responses to “8 Great Tips to boost your vocabulary

  1. Karen – Just popping by to check out your blog and say *thanks* for your comment today on mine! So glad you are happily divorced. There is much to learn from that. 🙂

  2. Thanks for checking out the blog!

  3. fairyfantasy7762

    Great advice Karen! I have a dictionary app in my BlackBerry and it is one of the few apps I have that I use all the time! Thanks for sharing other ways to boost your vocabulary!

  4. Thanks for your comment … it is my pleasure.

  5. As soon as I read the words in the paragraph about recent additions to your notebook: “Here are a few of the recent entries to my vocabulary notebook – conciliate, plinth, carapace, fecund, susurration, portending, erudite, and farcical.” I thought to myself, I wonder if she is reading a Dean Koontz book. Are you?
    Love the post!

  6. Oh, I forgot to mention, my newest vocabulary word is quotidian.

  7. Kathe – DK is good, but no, haven’t read him lately. I do keep a notation in the margin of my vocabulary notebook, re: where I saw the word. Quotidian – usual or customary; everyday; ordinary or commonplace … excellent word!

  8. Erika Liodice

    Love this. I subscribe to Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day in English and Spanish. It’s a great way to learn new words and keep my second language fresh.

  9. EL … I have a couple WOTD emails coming to me. It amazes me what I DON’T know! Keeping it fresh …

  10. Hey Karen!

    I love words, too. I used to teach the SAT English to high school students and one of the fastest easiest way to learn a WHOLE bunch of new words is to study word roots, prefixes and suffixes. There are whole books dedicated to this, and it’s great because when you learn one root there’s a potential for you to learn 10-20 new words because that root appears in those words.

    I also love going to the Merriam Webster site to see what words are currently popular. They’ll have a little explanations of why they are popular and who in the mainstream has used them. I think they talked about “austerity” in Europe for example.

    Finally, you just have to check out this: http://www.wordsoftheworld.co.uk/index.html

    Not sure if you follow me on twitter and saw this, but it’s a site that tells you the history and cultural context in which a modern word was brought into being.

    Total playground for word geeks!

    Thanks for sharing these useful tips!

  11. Thank you for your comments, OM! Words of the World – sounds like it’s right up my alley. Here’s a root for you – xeno. 🙂

  12. Pingback: These homophones give me such a headache | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

  13. Oooooh, and susurration is such a delicious example of onomatopoeia! Annie Dillard is an author who can be rather obscure, but her use of words is unbelievably unique and fascinating.

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