Guide to Expanding Your Vocabulary

Posted on October 25th, 2016 Developing Skills
expanding your vocabulary

There are countless benefits to having a strong vocabulary. Besides the sheer pleasure of being able to articulate yourself in a precise way or to be able to express nuance, a good vocabulary also makes college a lot easier.

The more words you have at your command, the faster and easier you’ll be able to read texts and write papers. Anyone can improve their vocabulary with some effort. Here are a few ways you can start expanding yours starting today:

Become an Active Reader

There are many ways to read. There’s skimming for information and then there’s slow, methodical, word-for-word absorption. And everything in between. If you have the habit of skipping over words you don’t know because it interrupts the pace of your reading, it’s time for a change. Instead of skipping the mystery words, stop what you’re doing, open a dictionary and find out the definition of the word right then and there. If the text is yours, circle the word and write the definition in the margin. Also, keep notes of all the new words in a separate file or notebook. By writing the word and definition down, you’re engaging more actively with them than if you’d just read the definition silently to yourself. Review the new words periodically to make sure you don’t forget them. It often takes more than one encounter with a word to be able to recall its meaning immediately.

Read More

Yes, your textbooks are probably giving you plenty of reading material to help you expand your vocabulary. But exposing yourself to good writing that’s not necessarily from a college textbook is a good habit for you to adopt since you can continue it after college is over. But there’s another issue when it comes to vocabulary. Words, like anything else, come in and out of fashion, and new words are invented all the time. By reading periodicals such as The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, you’ll be exposed to words being used by today’s leading thinkers and journalists.


Make flashcards. Though this is typically considered a memorization tool for crash studying for an upcoming test or exam, continued use of flashcards can help you build your vocabulary over time. To get the most out of flashcards, add new words periodically and be sure to mix up the order.

Sign Up For Word a Day

Many smartphone dictionary applications offer a “word a day” service where they send you a challenging word each day for you to master. If you stick to it and memorize the words sent to you, you’ll end up with potentially 365 new vocabulary words a year. Which isn’t a bad rate of vocabulary growth.

Take a Course in Latin

Many high-performing high school students fit in a Latin course along the way in order to prepare for the vocabulary section of the SAT. That’s because 60% of English words have Latin or Greek roots. And when it comes to vocabulary related to the fields of science and technology, the percentage rises to 90%.

Use a Thesaurus

For a more in-depth understanding of your new vocabulary, pick up a thesaurus and find out some words that are synonyms and antonyms of them. This will not only deepen your understanding of the root word, it will help expand your vocabulary and improve your overall ability to write academically.


The final stage of vocabulary-building involves putting your new lexicon to use by writing. First, practice on your own by creating sentences with your new words. Then, it’s time to start using the terms and phrases you’ve acquired in academic papers. Once you start using the words in context, they will become more deeply and permanently ingrained in your memory.

An extensive vocabulary is a useful tool for any college student. It can help improve both your reading and writing skills. Use these tips to expand your word bank.

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