Stressed at school
Educational Advice

Lost for Words?

Stressed male student


Having a word on the tip of your tongue is an exasperating feeling – who hasn’t despaired over a word that rhymes with something, but begins with a ‘p’, and that you certainly won’t find in a dictionary, because you can only vaguely recall a handful of letters at the end of the word? We’ve all been there, and it doesn’t get any less annoying. Improving your vocabulary doesn’t just mean storing up hoards of words with more than four syllables: the best speakers and writers are those who can use words effectively and efficiently, without sounding pompous or convoluted. Here are our best tips for increasing your vocab – and we’d love to know what other ways you’ve come across!


1. Read, read, read

Read everything: read highbrow literature, read trashy mags, read cookery magazines, read blogs and read the back of cereal boxes. Not only will you pick up different words, but also on the way they’re the used, and how a specific tone can be created.


2. Have a dictionary to hand

When you come across a word you’re unsure of, try to guess the meaning: usually when a word is in context, you can get a good grasp of its meaning. Once you’ve attempted to figure it out, look it up in a dictionary. It’s a good idea to jot down words you don’t know the meaning of: writing something out, or repeating it, is key to remembering it.


3. Mix it: read the dictionary

It might sound dull, but try to spend ten minutes a day opening the dictionary up on random pages, and learning a couple of words. The better quality your dictionary is, the more interesting this will be: some of the better ones have explanations of the origins and uses of words, as well as the meaning.


4. Be realistic

It’s all well and good looking at hundreds of new words every week, but how likely is it that you’ll remember them in a couple of days? Instead, start off in bitesize chunks. Make a goal to memorise a few words every week, and build it up. Use them in daily conversation and in your written work, and don’t move on until you’re certain they’re well and truly implanted into your brain!


5. Write, write, write

It doesn’t matter what you write about, where you write, and how much you do, spending time writing about something every day will increase your vocabulary. You need to put into practice all the words you’ve been storing up, and the best way to do so is to work them into sentences that you’ve created.


6. Don’t rely on a thesaurus

While thesaruses can be great, a lot of the time they’re misused, and can make work sound implausible (as well as making you sound a bit daft – does anyone remember that episode of Friends?). The key with great writing is to be clear and concise: not flashy and pretentious.

Written by JC (Guest Blogger)



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