1062 Vocabulary Words, Page 5 Robert A. Harris
February 22, 2012


Tips for Building Your Vocabulary

Try these ideas for learning the words above and how to use them.

Learn the words by using flash cards

Create a set of flash cards with the word on one side and the definition on the other.
Use the Leitner method for learning flash cards. The Leitner method uses several stacks (or you can use boxes) to keep the cards. Four stacks is about right, but you can vary it from two or three to seven or eight. All the cards are put into the first stack or box. Whenever you can say the definition of the word, and later, give an example sentence using it, the card is promoted to the next box. As the cards rise to the next box, the frequency of testing diminishes.  H ere's a sample table showing the possible relationships to studying:

Stack 1 Review Stack 2 Review
Stack 3 Reiew
Stack 4 Review
four times a day
three times a day
two times a day
once a day
three times a day
two times a day
once a day
every other day
two times a day
once a day
every other day
twice a week
once a day
every other day
twice a week
once a week

Your goal is to get all the cards retired out of the system--having learned all the definitions. Whenever you can't remember the meaning of a word, the card goes back to the first stack or box, regardless of how many times it got you to move the card to the top box.

Find the words in context

After you know the meaning of the words, you now want to be able to use them correctly in your writing and speaking. This is often more challenging than it seems, which is why thoughtless users of a thesaurus often go so wrong. "He was dead drunk," and "He was deceased inebriated" just are not synonymous expressions no matter what the thesaurus seems to say.

To find words used in context, download some good writing from the Web. One way to start is to Google "free full text books" or name a book, as in "Great Expectations full text" and see what you can locate.

Write the words in sentences

Now that you know the dictionary meaning of the words and have studied how they are actually used through several examples, write sentences using the words. Keep the example sentences in mind as you write, paying attention to the context of usage.

Find the words as you read

If you aren't extremely worried about what others will think of you, try writing poetry using some of your new words.

By now the words you have studied this way will be quite familiar to you. As you read, then, notice these words when you come across them. Mark them and their sentences and paragraphs and again study how they are used in context.

If you follow this learning path, you'll soon know many new words and--even better--be able to use them appropriately in your writing. You'll also have a lot of fun.

Other Strategies

Here are some additional fun ways to build your vocabulary, learning words beyond the list here. Find something that appeals to you or find several things.
1. Word Games. Play Scrabble or my own word game, DO DOT HOT. Work crossword puzzles and look up the strange words puzzles use (adit, ort, olio).
2. Dictionary attack. Pick a page in a college dictionary and see how many of the words you know and how many of the others you can learn in 20 minutes. Work with a partner and quiz each other. Pick the page at random. You'll find this activity is actually fun because you'll be laughing together over some of the words on the page.
3. Vocabulary Software. A package like Ultimate Vocabulary offers many ways to learn words and the fun is in the variety.
4. Use the search function with etexts. Remember that the best way to learn words is to see them in context. See how they are actually used. So find a word you want to learn and search for it in some books you own or have access to. There are thousands of free public domain works you can download and use to search with.

Learn creatively! For even more ways to learn vocabulary words, see Creative Ways to Learn Vocabulary Words. It's really fun. I'm not kidding. This is the last time I'm going to tell you. Or maybe not.

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com