Expand your vocabulary toolbox

your vocabulary

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain

These words, by one of the most noteworthy artists in English literature still hold relevance. Whether it’s persuasion or speaking your mind, vocabulary plays an indispensable role, as we established in the prequel to this post.

So, how do you build your toolbox of words that’s big enough to last a lifetime? Well, actually you can’t. Learning is a lifelong process, but what you can aspire for is improvement at every stage and here’s what you can do for that –

Know your words

Most people lack confidence in their speech and writing, which often, is due to lack of trying or practice. When reading a novel, for instance, most people prefer to get on with the story and skip the unfamiliar, complex words. Instead of avoiding these words, take a moment and look for the meaning of the words in the dictionary. This may somewhat, slow down the reading but will improve your understanding and vocabulary.

Alternatively, by taking just a little time to learn the common roots, prefixes and suffixes, you can conveniently expand your vocabulary by leaps and bounds. This will help you figure out the meanings of many words completely new to you, based on their Greek or Latin component.


The best way to increase your vocabulary is to read regularly and with a budding interest. You might like to know 10 ways to develop reading habit. In addition to your everyday reading, find the element of fun while looking for new words. Look for books, magazines, websites, and other forms of media that interest you and constantly challenge your understanding of the English language. This will help you discover new words in a world of contexts, thereby, enhancing your vocabulary.

Reading is the best way to check on words you already know. If you like sports, read the sports page of the daily newspapers or sports magazines. You may find interest in the books about your favorite athletes, autobiographies or monologues. Read for interest, not just to look at pictures and you’ll find your vocabulary increasing in no time.

Use a dictionary

Most people use a dictionary only to look up a word’s meaning. But in truth, a dictionary can offer much more than that. You can learn the correct pronunciation of words, understand and improve the use of words as part of your speech or get reference for their correct use.

Here are some pointers on how to do this as a part of a vocabulary building program:

  • Use a personal dictionary: Maintain a personal dictionary which you usually read at home. Most people do not have a big, unabridged dictionary; however, one of the smaller collegiate dictionaries would be fine to start with. The purpose of this is to develop the habit of searching for words. It can be a bit cumbersome to carry around, if you prefer to change your place of reading but it will  yield great results in the long run.
  • Read the entire entry for the word you look up: Words can have several meanings. It’s best to look up every possible meaning for the word. Build your interest and you’ll find every new word a fulfilling learning experience, building interest with every new word.
  • Circle the words you look up: Your personal dictionary is yours and yours alone. Don’t hold back to leave your mark. Circle a new work, fold the pages with distinctive new words and make sure you leave pointers or examples to remind you of the same when you’re browsing through it next time. It’ll give a personalized experience and help you retain words and your interest in your new-found hobby.

Study and review regularly

Once you’re used to looking up new words, vocabulary building is simply a matter of reviewing the words regularly until you set them in your memory. The best way to do this is by putting it to use. Use  new words in your daily speech and find a way to fit them in your conversations. If you write, replace your ordinary, boring words with synonyms from your newly enhanced vocabulary. It might sound like you’re trying too hard at first, but soon it will flow in your usual speech as you build confidence and understanding.

Word of the day

Improve your vocabulary by enrolling for a ‘word of the day’ and try to apply the word in conversations as many times as you can that day. Get your friends to join in and make a game of it. If you try Career Launcher’s GK App, you can discover this feature works wonders for you. Some words might be harder and more complex than others. But that’s the beauty of vocabulary – to make your words flow like the relentless torrent of the purest of streams.

Without question, a strong vocabulary is a great asset. An expansive vocabulary improves reading, speaking, writing, and reasoning skills. Research has even linked it with long-term educational and career success. In the short term, a strong vocabulary can help you with your college entrance exams or applications.