Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Increasing Your Stockpile of Words

An average 14-year-old child has a vocabulary of about 10,000 words, an average high school graduate 15,000, and an average college graduate between 20,000 and 30,000. Formal schooling is a potent vocabulary builder. The educational process forces students to learn unfamiliar words. New ideas requires new terminology, and textbooks become progressively “harder.”

Once a person graduates from school, however, he can choose his own reading matter, and this is when sloth frequently sets in. Marcel Proust gives way to Abigail Van Buren, and vocabulary building all but disappears. When this happens, most people, including college graduates, still have an inadequate command of words. They grope for words, use inexact words, and express complex thoughts poorly. They are embarrassed by their limitations, yet they seldom make any real effort to alter the situation. But those few who do make the effort are well rewarded, and you should be among them.

How can you improve the range and depth of your vocabulary? There are many ways. You can choose reading material that challenges your present vocabulary. You can widen the scope of your experiences, learning useful new words along the way. You can listen to people whose vocabularies are better than your own.

In addition, you can cultivate an interest in words, learning about prefixes, roots, suffixes, and origins of words. You can test yourself with many kinds of vocabulary quizzes. You can become adept at using that indispensable arsenal of words, the dictionary.

Yes, there are numerous ways to build a stronger vocabulary. You should know them all; each one is worth serious study and sustained use. 

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