Expanding your vocabulary

The more words you know, the more clearly and powerfully you will think...and the more ideas you will invite into your mind.Wilfred Funk, 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary

There are plenty of ways to expand your vocabulary. One particularly effective method is to keep your own word journal where you list new words as you find them.

You could organise this by date, topic, alphabetical order or you could group words with similar meanings together. When you encounter a new word, make a note of it. Look it up in a dictionary to establish its correct meaning and to find out how best to use it in a sentence. Use a thesaurus to find synonyms.

Aim to use your new vocabulary as soon as possible to establish its meaning in your mind.

You can discover new words:

  • by reading widely and including challenging reading material
  • by using a dictionary and thesaurus
  • by listening to talks, talk radio shows, news programmes
  • by listening to your teachers
  • by using apps that offer you a ‘word of the day’

Using your vocabulary

A colour chart with gradiations of green representing words becoming increasingly ambitious.

Use your vocabulary wisely and aim for a good range that suits your audience and purpose. This is true for both your fiction and non-fiction writing.

Long words are not always the most effective ones, eg:

It was a sweltering sunny day.

is different to:

It was a thermogenic, undarkened sunrise-to-sunset.

Make sure you understand how to use the words in a sentence. For example ‘thermogenic’ doesn’t make much sense in the above sentence. It means to produce heat, but is used to describe drugs or products that produce heat in the body.

When you proofread your work, try alternative words - synonyms – and notice the effects of these different vocabulary choices. Where possible, use precise words, full of descriptive energy, to bring your writing to life.