Language is a powerful tool, and the better you are at wielding it the better your results will be. If you want to engage your audience and pique their interest, you need to develop exceptional written communication skills. A big part of improving your writing skills is simply learning how to improve your vocabulary.
How to increase your vocabulary
Why is a strong vocabulary important?
You need good communication skills to work effectively with others in person, through email or by other means. Knowing which words to use and when is an important part of being a strong communicator. Building your vocabulary is one easy way to improve your communication skills. Having a large vocabulary can help you choose the right word or phrase needed for the situation, allowing you to easily convey your ideas, concerns, decisions and more.
A strong vocabulary can also increase your confidence and your ability to express yourself, whether you’re giving a presentation or meeting with a client to deliver a proposal. When building your vocabulary, it is important to incorporate both general terms and those related to your industry to develop a solid foundation.
How to improve your vocabulary and writing skills
You can try these ideas to build your vocabulary:
1. Learn the roots of words
To build a strong foundation for your vocabulary, it’s helpful to understand the roots of words. Many words have a common root and a prefix or suffix that helps you determine what the meaning might be. For example, when a word includes the root “duc,” a Latin word that means “to make or lead,” you can assume that the root refers to that Latin definition. You’ll see this root in words like “produce” or “deduce.”
2. Focus on practical terms and words
Some industries have different definitions for words or use entirely new words, which is called jargon. If your coworkers and others in your field use technical jargon, try focusing on building your vocabulary to incorporate these words. For example, some industries use the word “stand-up” to mean a short daily meeting.
You can also look for clearer ways to express yourself instead of relying on cliches that may be difficult for others to understand or skew your meaning. For example, instead of saying “get your foot in the door,” you could use “expand your opportunities.”
3. Create word associations
Word associations can help you remember certain words or phrases. For example, the word “gargantuan” means very large. Try creating a sequence with the word, such as tiny, small, medium, large, giant and gargantuan. Forming associations can help you recall words you’re learning with more ease. These associations can also ensure you remember the word long term.
4. Complete regular vocabulary tests
At the end of each week, create a quiz that includes the vocabulary words, root words or other language aspects that you’ve been studying. Taking a quiz or test can increase your ability to retain new words. Every time you learn a new root or word, create a flashcard. On one side of the card, write the word, and on the opposite side, write the definition. You can practice recalling the definition from the words and vice versa.
5. Take a writing class
As you build your vocabulary, you can also improve your writing skills, which will benefit you in your professional life. Take a writing course online or at a local adult educational institution that incorporates assignments and tests to help you boost your ability to communicate effectively through writing. If you complete a writing class, take notes on any new words you learn throughout the course.
6. Create groups of words
As you learn new words, you can group them together by meaning. By creating these groups, you can identify patterns that make it easier to incorporate the words into your daily speech. For example, you might learn words like affirmative, efficacious and decisive, which all mean positive. By grouping these words together, it becomes easier to recall their general meanings and how to use them in speech.
7. Identify word nuances
Some words have alternate definitions in different contexts. An example of nuance is the word “frame,” which could have several meanings depending on the scenario. A frame could be a border that surrounds a picture or window, or it could mean to outline or highlight a certain physical quality. Identifying and understanding these nuances in language will help you better know how to use the words you’ve learned in your communication with others.
8. Identify words that share meanings
Different words often share the same or similar meaning. You can create a list of word groups to help you construct new and unique statements in your writing and speech. Some words have similar meanings but don’t always substitute for one another, so it’s helpful to review definitions of similar words before using them. By varying the word choices in your communication, you’ll sound more polished and professional.
9. Diversify what you read
Most people spend at least some of their time reading every day. Diversifying your reading choices can help you build a stronger vocabulary since you see new words from different writers who have varying writing patterns. Adding new texts and options to your reading list can also help.
10. Edit what you write
When you finish writing any professional text, such as an email or cover letter, review your content for repetitive words or phrases. Consider using your expanded vocabulary to replace words you used frequently throughout the document. By editing your own writing, you can improve clarity, style and tone.
Why is it important to improve your vocabulary?
- Develop a reading habit. Vocabulary building is easiest when you encounter words in context. …
- Use the dictionary and thesaurus. …
- Play word games. …
- Use flashcards. …
- Subscribe to “word of the day” feeds. …
- Use mnemonics. …
- Practice using new words in conversation.