Having a broad and expansive vocabulary can be very useful, especially if you are a professional writer. With a nice stack of synonyms at standby, you can make your write-ups engaging, diverse and more appealing to your readers.
If you don’t have a broad vocabulary, your write-ups can sound boring and repetitive. You won’t be able to retain the attention of your audience and whatever you’re writing won’t be able to give you positive results.
In this post, Simply IELTS is going to be taking a look at some tips that you can follow to grow your database of words and synonyms.
Defining Vocabulary – What is It?
Improving vocabulary and having a good vocabulary is good and all…but what is vocabulary to begin with?
Vocabulary, in general, can be defined as the collection and assortment of words that are used in a particular language. However, when we refer to vocabulary as a trait and quality of a particular person, we mean the number of words the particular person is aware of along with their meanings.
If, for example, a person is aware of 100 words, then he will be said to have a better vocabulary than a person who only knows 50 words.
So, in this post, we are going to be talking about the ways in which you can make yourself more cognizant of the different words used in your particular language.
Tips to Improve Vocabulary
Here are the tips that you can follow to improve your vocabulary.
- Create a regular habit of studying a thesaurus
- Make a habit of reading literature
- Use online paraphrasing tools
- Take online quizzes and courses
- Take some time to recall and practice with the new words
Let’s look at each one of these tips in detail.
1. Create a Regular Habit of Studying a Thesaurus
What is a thesaurus? In a nutshell, it’s the book that you can go for finding out synonyms for virtually any word you want. Just as a dictionary is the book of meanings and pronunciations, in the same way a thesaurus is the book of synonyms.
Of course, when we talk about studying a thesaurus, we don’t just mean looking at it, glazy-eyed and monotonously reading out the synonyms. That actually won’t help you learn new stuff.
Rather, to get the most out of this exercise, here is what you have to do:
- Get a notebook and write down 10 – 12 words (such words that you want to know the synonyms of)
- Then, open a thesaurus and find out 2 – 4 synonyms of each word
- If there is any synonym that you can’t understand, look it up in the dictionary to find out its meaning as well as pronunciation
If you learn with 10 or 12 words at a time, you are more likely to remember and retain them.
The steps mentioned above can be great for finding synonyms for words that you already know. But if you want to learn some totally new words i.e., that you previously have no idea of, here are some things that you can do:
- Open a thesaurus and select a page
- Read and write down 10 new words on a notebook
- Look at the thesaurus to see if there are any synonyms for those new words that you may already be aware of. For example, if you find the word “exacerbate,” you could find the words “worsen” in the listed synonyms
- Find out the meanings of the words from a dictionary or from the thesaurus itself if provided
2. Make a Habit of Reading Literature
Reading existing literature is a very effective albeit indirect way of improving vocabulary. When you read someone else’s content, you get exposed to the unfamiliar words that they use. Plus, since they (the author) use the words in passing, you will automatically get an idea of what they mean and how they have to be correctly utilized.
Consider the following passage:
The time came when the person realized the outcomes of his indolence. Had he worked hard, he would not have seen what he did not want to see.
Now, if a person reading this passage had no idea about the word “indolence,” they would be able to guess it to mean “laziness.” Why? Because the next sentence talks about “…had he worked hard, he would not have seen what he did not want to see…” Since the opposite of working hard is laziness, the reader would automatically join the dots and understand the meaning.
Since the purpose of this sort of reading exercise is to get exposure to newer words, you have to be careful about the content you pick. You should, ideally, choose something a little advanced so that you get to see a whole bunch of new words.
Here are some things that you can try reading to improve your vocabulary:
- Newspaper columns
- Literature books
- Academic journals and papers
3. Use Online Paraphrasing Tools
This is also a great way to improve vocabulary.
Online paraphrasing tools are basically made to paraphrase the text they’re given by effecting the following changes to it:
- Replacing the existing words with synonyms
- Changing the sentence structure
- Joining and breaking the sentences
And so on.
The exact number and style of changes made by these tools depend on their quality.
From the above-mentioned changes, you can use the first one i.e., word replacement, to your benefit. You can, so to say, enter some of your content into the tool and then look at the words it uses to paraphrase the input.
This would automatically expose you to a range of synonyms, quite a few of which could be new and unfamiliar.
One of the main benefits of using an online tool for this purpose is that since you enter your own content, you automatically understand the meaning of the new words. To show you what we mean by that, we will be using a popular paraphrasing tool on a piece of sample text. The tool that we will be using is Rephrase, and the text is:
“The veracity of his somewhat zany claims became clear when the dubiety regarding the theft was cleared.”
Now take a gander at the output provided by the tool:
In the screenshot above, you can see that the word “zany” was changed by the tool to “rather absurd.” Similarly, the word “dispelled” was introduced by the tool although the input had a simpler word in place i.e., “cleared.”
By doing this exercise regularly, you can build your vocabulary. However, you have to be very careful of the tool that you pick for this practice. If the tool is not reliable, then you won’t be able to trust the changed words to have the same meaning as the original ones.
4. Take Online Quizzes and Courses
This is a pretty direct and straightforward method of learning new words. You can simply head over to the internet and look up vocabulary quizzes. There are a lot of them available online and they work more or less in the same way.
The quizzes involve a provided word as well as multiple choices for the meaning/synonym of that word. For example, here is a vocabulary quiz given by Britannica:
As a piece of advice, when taking a vocabulary quiz, you should not totally rely on your memory to retain the words. Since the quiz is fast-paced and there are a lot of words consecutively following the others, you should note them down and study them later on as well.
And just as online quizzes can be helpful in building vocabulary, the same goes for online courses. There are different websites, suchas Udemy and Coursera that offer different courses on vocabulary.
5. Take Some Time to Recall and Practice the New Words
Let’s end up with probably the most important tip that you have to keep in mind when building vocabulary.
Unless the new words that you learn are fully ingrained in your mind – to the extent that you can use them without thinking – you have to constantly recall them and deliberately use them in your content.
Slowly and slowly, you will be able to keep them at a level of subconscious recollection, which will enable you to fetch them whenever needed without pondering over them too much.
So, how do you recall and practice the new words? You need to simply create a list of the words along with their meanings and synonyms. Keep the list open whenever you want to write something. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, pick a word from the list and use it instead of the basic synonym you are already aware of.
Improving vocabulary is something that you can (and have to) constantly work on. there are always new words that you can learn.
Remember, as is the case with virtually every other skill, building vocabulary takes time. If your content still sounds somewhat generic and boring after a couple of days or weeks, don’t worry. Keep up the practice and you will get there.