Six Best Practices for Broadening your Vocabulary

By Huntington Learning Center

Six Best Practices for Broadening your Vocabulary

 It's important for students to be continually building up their vocabularies over time. Having a comprehensive vocabulary means you'll have an easier time understanding and responding to standardized test questions; it helps you to write more coherently; it also aids in reading comprehension to help better absorb learning materials. Expanding your vocabulary is something you should never stop doing.

 If you're looking for ways to broaden your verbal horizons, here are a few things you can do:

1. Read More Often

The easiest way to learn new words is through context – by exposing yourself to new words within a sentence or paragraph. As you read books, essays, and even test questions, pay attention to the words you don't know and try to derive their meanings from how they're used. Then, look up their definitions. Gradually start introducing more challenging material into your reading list for best results.

2. Put New Words to Use

When you learn a new word, make a mental note of it, what it means, and how it's used. Then, try using it yourself. Incorporate it into an essay response or simply use it in conversation. This will make it a more natural component of your vocabulary and help to ensure you don't forget its definition. 

3. Make Associations

If you're having trouble remembering what a word means, associate it with something similar. For example, "gargantuan" sounds like "gigantic" and they have essentially the same meaning. You can also rhyme it with words that will help you remember its definition, or even associate it with a proper noun if that helps. Use mnemonics, or memory tricks, to make funny associations that you'll never forget. 

4. Take Advantage of Challenging Situations

Throughout school and work, you're going to be put in a lot of challenging situations. For example, you might have to take a standardized test or write a dissertation. If this is the case, take it as an opportunity to learn new things. Enroll yourself in an SAT/ACT prep course or try to explain what you're writing about to your peers as a form of practice.

5. Play Word Games

Expanding your vocabulary can be fun! Scrabble, Boggle, and crossword puzzles are a great way to learn new words and dredge up old ones that you haven't used in a while. You might have to bring out the dictionary to see if that 20-point word is legitimate, but it's rewarding when it is!

6. Sign up for a 'Word of the Day' E-mail

Many dictionary sites, like Merriam-Webster, will send you a Word of the Day when you subscribe to their e-mail list. Learn something new every day!