How to Build Vocabulary Study Guide

Updated on Sep 20, 2011

How to Build Vocabulary Study Guide

This lesson introduces a variety of useful resources to help you improve your word power. You'll also learn vocabulary building techniques and tricks to help you in both written and spoken communication now and in the future.

Learning new words isn't a magical process. And it's not rocket science. It just takes a willingness to learn and an appreciation of how useful words can be. It's important to remember that the best words aren't necessarily the longest ones—or the strangest ones. Indeed, most great writers agree that the best words are the simple ones that express thoughts in plain language that's sincere and direct.

All this means is that if you want to improve your word power and the ability to communicate effectively, you can. You'll just need some valuable resources and time-tested techniques to make words stick in your word bank.

Tools For Building Word Power

A Good Ear

The very best tools for building vocabulary are attached to your head: your two ears! Listening carefully is an ideal way to pick up new words. If you concentrate on listening for new words, you'll discover that you hear them every day. You'd be amazed at how often new words whiz past you! (In Lesson 3, you'll learn to figure out a new word's meaning by noticing the other words in the sentence.)


Go back to the Introduction and reread the tip on ways to build word power. Remember, the most effective way is to read!

Keep a Personal Word Book

When you read or hear an unfamiliar word, write it down so you can look it up later. Often, writing a word helps you commit it to memory. Some people are visual learners, who remember new things best when they see the written words or ideas. Other people are auditory learners, who remember things more easily if they're spoken or sung. Which kind of memory learner are you? Either way, it's a great idea to keep a daily notebook in which you write any new words you hear or see.


Challenge your best friend to keep a word book, too, and compare the books every few weeks, exchanging new words. Compete to see who gets the longest list. Loser treats winner to an after-school snack!

Word Search Books and Crossword Puzzles

If you take the bus or other public transportation, or spend time sitting around an airport, you probably see people with word search or crossword puzzle books. These activities are popular because they keep minds active while teaching new and interesting words. They also provide a challenging, fun way to pass the time.

If you haven't tried these kinds of puzzles, check your local newspaper or go online to look for them. Puzzle books are sold in most bookstores, so you may want one to keep in your backpack for down time. You may well become a real word puzzle fan, which could be a good thing. Who knows, you just might turn into a famous writer someday!


This may seem obvious, or boring, but don't underestimate the value of a dictionary. You should make it a habit to use a dictionary in two ways.

  1. Look up the meanings of words you don't know.
  2. While looking up a word, note other words printed near it. Browse, and you may find some other, really fascinating ones you don't know on the same page!
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