How to Build Your Vocabulary

Students working together.

Even if the SATs are in your past, it’s always fun and advantageous to expand your vocabulary. Below are a few tips to help you do just that!

Look up words. A lot. Maybe even 20 times a day. Every time you encounter a new word, do a quick Google search to discover what it means. This means always being on the lookout for words you don’t know, regardless of whether you are reading Dickens for a class or hanging out in a bar at midnight and overhear someone say “teetotaler.” Make it a habit to consult a dictionary each instance you collide with new vocabulary, and to refresh your knowledge of words you pretty much understand, but couldn’t give a respectable definition of in your own words.

Read. Authors, not surprisingly, are often the maestros of vocabulary. This includes authors of non-fiction, as well as fiction. Find material that isn’t too frustratingly dense to pick up new words like Super Mario picks up coins.

Create your own sentences. When you look up a new word, put that word in an original sentence. This will help you retain the new word’s meaning, as well as verify whether or not you actually understand the definition.

Use your vocabulary! In your writing and speech, don’t be afraid to apply your newfound knowledge of the English language. A healthy dose of higher-level language can introduce wonderful specificity and variety to your written and spoken communication. Applying your new vocabulary to new situations is perhaps the best way to reinforce new definitions, so keep your word choices transcendently trenchant!