Expand Your Vocabulary

il_570xN.326735677Sometimes when I think about all of the ways I want to learn, my head starts to birl. Don’t know that word? It’s today’s word of the day on Dictionary.com. To be honest, I didn’t know it either, but I do now! Learning new words is one of the goals I’ve set for myself this year, as I truly believe that an educated, well-spoken writer and speaker commands respect.

One of the most amazing things I’ve noted in my life, and especially in my professional career, is that how an individual’s ability to communicate has a profound impact on the way others relate to them. Unfortunately, it isn’t always fair either. Some of the greatest discrimination I’ve witnessed has come at the expense of someone being discounted because their speech fell short of effectively delivering their message. I’ve watched incredibly bright, qualified job candidates never get past the screening process because their words fell flat on their intended audience. I’ve seen sales people, who had a great product to sell and a prospective customer ready to buy, not make the deal because the message was garbled in a transmission of poorly chosen words and bad delivery.

A powerful, expansive vocabulary gives your conversation meaning and brings your words to life. It adds depth and character to your dialogue and makes people want to listen to you. When the words you use are limited, so are others’ interest in you. If you only have empty, boring words, then you offer no real substance to the listener, leaving them hungry for more meaning and details. Give it to them this year! Take on the challenge to expand your vocabulary!

Here’s hope! The most amazing thing about an expansive vocabulary is that it is available to anyone! You do not need an ivy-league education to afford a diverse and expansive choice of words with which to express yourself! You simply need the desire to want to know how to learn and communicate more effectively, more colorfully and a willingness to invest some time in challenging your brain to grow!

One of the easiest ways is the sign up for a word of the day web service. There are several sites that offer free daily delivery of new words that you can have delivered to your inbox: wordsmith.org or dictionary.com are two of the more popular. But don’t just get the words…you have to use them! You have to make a point to immediately put the words into action into your language and groove them into your brain!

Another simple way to expand your word power is crossword puzzles. My Dad religiously did a crossword puzzle everyday. It was an unwritten rule in my house that the comic’s page of the daily newspaper, where you could find the crossword puzzle in the bottom left corner, was Dad’s property. No one ever dared to touch that page or attempt to try to complete the puzzle before Dad took a crack at it. I was always amazed at how many words he knew and how quickly he could complete any crossword puzzle. Years of practice had honed his brain and built up his mental storehouse of knowledge.

Reading a dictionary is also an interesting way to expand your knowledge. I know it sounds a little bizarre, but it really is a rather interesting experience if you give it a try. I like to read cookbooks – I read them like most people read novels – to get new ideas about ingredient combinations and to inspire my passion for cooking. The same results can be achieved in reading a dictionary. Take 30 minutes and waltz through a few pages of a good, heavy-duty, unabridged dictionary and I promise you will stumble across some new words and knowledge you can immediately put to use! And by the way, the same can be accomplished with a Thesaurus! What a great way to find a new word to replace the one you always use!

Speaking of a Thesaurus, if reading isn’t your thing, give a visual look at words a try. I fell in love with a tool called ThinkMap a few years ago and continue to use this site today when I get really stumped about a word. It is a great, interactive tool that lets you visually see the relationship between words. You can have a little fun with the trial app, or spend a little money (well worth it!) to have this tool at your ready to play until your heart’s content and learn daily words and interactively expand your word power and knowledge.

Reading for pleasure, or for business, will always help enlarge the reach of your vocabulary to new dimensions. It is why we all push our children to learn to read at such a young age and why we should never, ever stop reading. If you have a eReader, you also know that a simple ‘tap’ on any word immediately gives you the definition. Shame on us all for skimming over an unfamiliar word and not taking a pause to make sure we really know the meaning! Today’s digital world has enabled such incredible power for immediacy in learning that we’re crazy if we aren’t taking advantage of it.

So take on the challenge of expanding your vocabulary. When you accept the challenge, you will be able to:

1. Truly say what you mean

2. Better understand others

3. Enjoy and understand what you read more

4. Boost your power of persuasion

5. Better grasp ideas and think more logically

6. Communicate more effectively

7. Make a better impression on others

Take on the challenge to build a bigger vocabulary. Avoid the temptation to throw out the big words you’ve learned every chance you get. No one will be impressed that you can memorize Webster’s Unabridged Double Volumes. Part of the value of expanding your vocabulary is to learn to use words appropriately. Remember the words of Mark Twain,

“Never use a 5-dollar word when a 50-cent word will do.”

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