Learning more depends on expanding your vocabulary. Words serve as building blocks to:
- Express yourself better
- Understand others better
- Create new concepts and ideas
- Help you win Scrabble
Several years ago, a mentor of mine recommended a habit that has helped increase my vocabulary immensely. Want to learn the secret?
None Shall Pass
Whenever you come across a word you don’t recognize, ALWAYS look that word up in a reliable dictionary. ALWAYS looking up unrecognized words makes this habit successful. You may be in a hurry, tired, or even able to understand what you’re reading without knowing a particular word, but never skip over these words. I started this practice before the ubiquitous Internet and had to heft my large encyclopedic dictionary to the table top and find words. Now that easy-to-use online resources exist like Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com, you have no excuse for skipping over unfamiliar words.
Buy the Book
You’ll notice that these online dictionaries only provide terse, high-level definitions of words. In Merriam-Webster’s case, it’s a trick to get you to subscribe to the more expansive, unabridged online version. An annual subscription costs about $30, and you have the advantage of words being updated constantly. In my case I’d rather spend about the same amount for an old-fashioned, impress-people-who-come-to-dinner-and-see-it-on-your-bookshelf version of an encyclopedic dictionary.
I’m referring to the type of dictionary that will double as an effective bullet-proof shield, if needed. This dictionary I have provides much more that just word definitions. Look at some of the benefits you get from a real dictionary:
- Variant definitions
- Synonyms and antonyms
- Word origins (etymology)
- A handbook of style & grammar
Did You Pass the Test?
I made a special effort to put a few difficult words in this article to see if you would look them up. You may already know what ubiquitous and etymology mean. If you didn’t, then look them up right now.