How to Build Vocabulary Study Guide (page 2)
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.
- Look up the meanings of words you don't know.
- 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!
Which Dictionary is Best?
Look around your home, and you'll probably find a dictionary sitting on a shelf somewhere. This can be an invaluable tool in building your vocabulary. A dictionary provides a lot of useful information about words: how to pronounce them, their grammatical functions, their history and development, and any multiple meanings of words. Most of the time, you won't use all this information, but its usefulness and overall value will increase with time. There will most likely come a day when you'll find yourself using a dictionary's detailed information more frequently.
Online Dictionaries and Vocabulary Tools
If you spend time online, you should become familiar with all the dictionary help available on the Internet. Use the online resources by typing the word in the search box, or if you want to be more specific, type in definition + the word you want. You'll be offered definitions of that word from several dictionaries and encyclopedias. Typically, along with the definition, you'll find lists of or links to antonyms and synonyms from a thesaurus.
Word of the Day
Build your word power and help feed hungry people of the world at the same time—for free! It's a win-win situation! At www.freerice.com, you are given a word and four possible meanings. Click on the right meaning and you donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. (You'll see the rice grains appear in a bowl.) If you get the answer wrong, you are told the right answer and given an easier word to define. After each right answer, you'll have the chance to define more words, including any you got wrong along the way, and watch the rice fill the bowl. You may have so much fun that you'll want to donate a bowl of rice each day!
TIP: Be very careful when searching in online dictionaries. These websites often include advertisements that try to pull you away from the academic definitions. While you may find the additional material interesting, it's not always accurate or true.
Beware of the Thesaurus
A thesaurus is a book that provides synonyms and antonyms for words. Use a thesaurus to look up a word and find many other words that have the same (or the opposite) meaning as that word. But be careful! Thesauruses don't explain the nuances, or subtle differences in meaning, that exist among words that seem to have the same or nearly the same meaning. For example, look at this short list of synonyms that a thesaurus provides for the word adequate:
competent, modest, sufficient, suitable, decent, equal
Now, imagine using any of these words in the following sentence:
Sally, the hardest-working student in our class, has a vocabulary that is ___.
Would each of these words create the same meaning if it were plugged into the sentence? Hardly. To say that Sally's vocabulary is suitable is very different from saying that it is sufficient or adequate. And saying it is equal doesn't make any sense at all.
Avoid using a thesaurus unless you know for sure that the word you've chosen conveys exactly the meaning you want. The thesaurus is a writing tool to use only after you have a very extensive vocabulary of your own. Then, you can choose from the words supplied with a better understanding of all their meanings.
Practice vocabulary problems and answers can be found at:
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