How to Improve Your Vocabulary Steadily

By Michael

Sylvia Grappone says, “An article on how to improve vocabulary would be helpful. I’m in my late 30s and noticed that I can no longer remember things as easily as I did when I was a teen, and with a hubby and kids have no time to really focus on studying. I do read in my leisure time but at the moment only technical books. Would reading novels help my vocabulary? Any shortcuts or techniques?”

Sylvia, the more you read, the more words you’ll see, and the more you’ll understand. Even in the Oxford English Dictionary, the final authority for the meaning of a word is how the word has actually been used in print.

But since your family limits your time, let me suggest some ways to improve your vocabulary that are more efficient than reading every book in the library.

  1. Make it a priority to learn new words. If you want to improve your vocabulary more quickly, you have to make at least a small commitment. Decide to learn one new word every day or two. Visit Daily Writing Tips for our Word of the Day. Or subscribe to a Word of the Day email list, install a Word of the Day tool on your computer desktop, or buy a Word of the Day calendar.
  2. Make your vocabulary practical. Start by learning the words that can express what’s most important to you. For example, learn more of your trade language – the words that are commonly used in your business or hobby or vocation. Go beyond the jargon and cliches. Find better, fresher, clearer words to express what your peers are talking about.
  3. Find the right word for you and use it. When you’re writing something, use a thesaurus frequently. That will help you express yourself better. And every time you do that, you’ll learn a new word and you’ll use that new word.
  4. Start learning where you are. As you read, if you come across an interesting word that you don’t understand, don’t just bleep over it. See item number 1. Take the time to look it up in a dictionary. Write it down and use it later.
  5. Learn roots. Most English words are built from common roots, prefixes and suffixes, often with Greek or Latin origins. They’re highly reusable. When you learn one root, you’ll start to understand the many other words that use that root.
  6. When you learn a word, use it immediately and frequently. Make it a game. Slip your new word into conversation with as many different people as you can. Repeat it to yourself. Use it in sentences. Write it on a flashcard and practice it while waiting for red lights.

The key to a better vocabulary is regular practice and progress. Maybe you can’t learn a hundred new words a day, but you can learn one or two a day, totaling thousands of new words over the years.

Click here to get access to 800+ interactive grammar exercises!


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17 Responses to “How to Improve Your Vocabulary Steadily”

  • Dumitru Tira

    I recommend using Google for quick searching word meanings or definitions by using “define:” before the word

  • Zach Everson

    How about upping the reading level of your magazine or newspaper? Read The Economist or New Yorker instead of Time or Newsweek.

  • Razeen

    If you use firefox, you can add dictionary.com search engine plugin at mycroft.mozdev.org. This plugin help you to search the difficult words.

  • Daniel

    Zazh, that is a good one. The Economist is just brilliant.

  • Roshawn

    Nice.

  • Mikael Høilund

    Go to dictionary.com with Firefox, and right click on the search box. The menu item “Add keyword to search” (or something to that effect) should appear. Clicking this will allow you to define a search keyword (I use “d”), so that typing the keyword in the address field, followed by one or more search terms, performs said search.

    To look up a word, I simply type “d slinky”, and off it goes! This is useful for other types of search too. I have “w” for wikipedia, and “g” (with some special addons) for google. I have also made some rather advanced tricks with this technology too; I can even make certain words highlight with this. Very powerful.

  • Abdullah

    One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary is to write a word with its part of speech, meaning and a sentence on a piece of paper. Put it in your pocket. Whenever you are free, take the paper out and see it. If you do it three times a day you will never forget that word.

  • AL

    I actually do what Abudullah has mentioned. Meaning anytime I read or hear something, a word that is new to my mind, I simply jot it down on my notepad and hunt the meaning of the word and how how to use it in my daily conversations.

  • Greg Ragland

    Yes, I agree with everyone above. I use a vocabulary journal to write down new words that I hear or words that I like but don’t actively use. Then I transcribe the words to note cards and study them intermittently. It has worked really well for me.

  • Vocabulary Software

    Vocabulary Journals are a great way to improve your vocabulary over time. At work I reserve the last page of my notebook to write down words that I hear people use. I write down the sentence and who used the word.

  • Lemson lifa

    I’d like u to help me what does this sentence mean”had continued steadily all day.

  • behnam

    i wanna improve our vocabulary fast and depthly

  • Adi P

    We developed a tool to help people improve vocabulary fast. Try it out see if it works, it in expensive and easy to use.
    Google Dictionup

  • Jose M. Blanco

    An effective way of improving your writing skills and vocabulary is to copy a passage from a classic or even a contemporary author. Look up the words you don’t know, define, them, and reread the passage. Then read the passage out load. For a little extra oomph, memorize the passage and have someone dictate it to you as you write it.

  • tung nguyen thanh

    I think vocabulary is very important.if you don’t have vocabularies, you have nothing.Vocabularies is blood of language.To learn it, i think the best way is reading.But not by reading some kind of novel, it’s too difficult especially with someone have just known a little bit words.I think you should read some books that is fun, easy.that’s kind of book that you really like. And when you read it, don’t try to remember or use dictionary, just guess the meaning of it. Forget that memorize, just focus on the meaning of the story.Maybe you’wrong, ok.it’s not importan, you”ll see it again(if it’s common, if not- forget it) and you’ll guess again, again…..And you will learn this word naturally, effortlessly.you will remember it forever.that is the fastest way to learn vocabulary.

  • Sopheap Ngeth

    Yes, I agree that vocabulary is very important for all learner. In my mind i think that if you want to improve your vocabulary you have to read a lot. When we read a lot we will know a lot and our English vocabulary will improve itself.
    Thanks.

  • Shampa Thakur

    Reading is good “Passive” way of improving vocabulary, but when you are resorting to making lists, that is “Active” method. Problem with active method of learning words is that it is cumbersome and boring, and you doing retain and unless you use it in writing sentences to apply the word, very little chance is that you increase your lexical size.
    Improve Your Vocabulary -www.vocabmonk.com is an active learning tool which is personalized and makes sure you grasp the learnt words by applying it. It is lot of fun too as you can play vocab challenges with your friends.
    Give it a shot!

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