Words, Words, Words

Whether spoken, whispered, shouted, written, or sung, words surround us all day, every day. How can we harness word power to make sure our own voices are heard above the throng? I believe the secret lies in getting to know words so intimately you can choose just the right one for the right situation. I know of no better coach for increasing one's vocabulary than my friend  Karen R. Sanderson. As a talented writer and editor, words are her joy and her livelihood. I'm honored to welcome Karen as today's guest blogger.

8 Great Tips to boost your vocabulary

My vocabulary is the result of a life-long love affair with words. It didn’t hurt that I was raised by a former proofreader for Merriam-Webster and a New York Times crossword puzzler.

I keep a vocabulary notebook. Next to this notebook I keep my dictionary (an old-fashioned printed dictionary, a Merriam-Webster of course). Whenever I encounter a word I don’t know, I put it in my notebook and look it up.

I learn a lot of new words; I probably forget a lot more. I have found the best way to retain new words is to use my new words. Also, I –

Read – This is by far the best way to learn new words. Magazines, books, blogs, websites. If you carry a book around and read while waiting at the doctor or Motor V, keep an index card and pen in your pocket or purse for new words you encounter on the go.

Google – Try Googling WOTD (word of the day) and you’ll be amazed at what happens! You will find a long list of WOTD sites to help you increase your vocabulary. You will find one site just right for you.

Sign up – Subscribe to a word-a-day site and get new words sent to your inbox.

Learn in chunks – Dictionary.com has a great theme-related way to study words under subject headings like culinary, performing arts, and sports. There are currently 76 decks of cards under the sports heading, so you can see where this can lead!

Pick up the thesaurus – When you discover a new word, pick up (or click) the thesaurus and find its synonyms, antonyms, etc.

Flex the word muscles – Play words games like Scrabble or do word puzzles or crosswords. Learn Q words – they help a lot in Scrabble! Did you know Qi is an alternative for Chi?

Write sentences – Some time ago I read “carmine” in a book. I wasn’t sure what it meant so I looked it up. It means vivid red. So I wrote it in a few simple sentences. That lava is carmine. New Mexico sunsets are often carmine. I am angry and I am seeing carmine!

Use your new words – And look smarter! Use new words in correspondence, emails, Facebook posts, on your blog. Your friends will be impressed.

Here are a few of the recent entries to my vocabulary notebook – conciliate, plinth, carapace, fecund, susurration, portending, erudite, and farcical.

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One's vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die.” – Evelyn Waugh

Photo of Karen S. Elliott

Karen S. Elliott, The Word Shark

Karen R. Sanderson

Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun. Her favorite book is the dictionary.

Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, writer, and grandmother. You can find her at The Word Shark website. Find her blog here. Connect with Karen on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

This article was originally posted to Karen's blog on May 11, 2011. Click here for original.

Upper Photo credit: “Vocabulary Stones” by Cindy Walcott


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