Notice that I did not say read a lot. Although reading voraciously can be beneficial, it isn’t always. Quality is better than quantity. Some people read avidly, but they understand very little, retain less, and learn nothing new!
Of course, this is not always the case. Some avid readers have learned to read a lot of material, remember it, and use it when applicable. My point is that if you are worried about starting that eight-hundred-page novel, you might just forgo reading altogether. Accessing texts more often is a good idea because it gives you a chance to experience a wider variety of texts and vocabulary. (Don’t shy away from that eight-hundred pager, by the way – just break it into smaller sessions.)
Vary your reading
Don’t get “stuck in a rut.” Read a wide variety of material from your favourite novelist to the classics. Read material from different subjects such as psychology, philosophy, and science.
With all the available resources online today, there is no reason to limit yourself. You can find numerous websites with free novels, stories, and articles. Check out blogs, magazines, and essays, too.
For the classics, Project Guttenberg has thousands of free eBooks.
CommonLit.org and ReadWorks.org provide free access to articles, poems, and stories. You can browse by subject, grade, etc.
Don’t always skip
Take the time to look up unfamiliar words, particularly those that are used frequently in a specific book or text.
Create a personal dictionary
When you notice words recurring that you tend to forget, add them to your own personal dictionary.
You can create one easily with a scribbler, leaving several pages for each letter. Alternatively, you can set up a personal dictionary on a spreadsheet or other program.
Put words to work
Use the new words that you are trying to learn. The more often you practise, the more available the words and their meanings will become. Simply trying to memorize words and definitions from lists alone is a weak method that is sure to fail.
You have read the words, now figure out a way to use them in speech and writing. The more modalities you can use, the stronger the connection will be, and your retention will improve.
As with reading, write frequently. It is better to set yourself some short writing tasks and times than to wait and wait and wait to write your prestigious award-winning novel. All joking aside, we often hamper ourselves by overthinking or stressing about starting a project. Just start, and do your best.
You can begin with a simple journal, noting a few things each day. You might want to give yourself some paragraph writing exercises looking at descriptive writing, argumentative writing, persuasive writing, or narrative writing. You could start a blog and write about your favourite sport, hobby, musical genre, etc.
The idea is to keep practising. You remember much more when you have written about a subject; therefore, you will also retain more of the new words you are trying to learn by using them in written form.
When you are writing, be sure to incorporate vivid adjectives and adverbs, precise nouns, and accurate verbs. Use a thesaurus to help you, but always be aware of the different connotations of words. Still, putting new knowledge, as fledgling as it might be, to work for you will accelerate your vocabulary growth.
Speaking of modalities, you can use flashcards to self-test. (If you don’t like the word “test,” just think of it as practice.)
When you create your cards, the act of writing out the words and definitions will help implant the information. By the way, you can also add a couple of example sentences to your cards. When testing, you might try thinking of alternative sentences using the same words to expand your ability further.
Word of the day
Many online dictionaries provide the option of having them send you a word of the day. If you use this tool, make sure you incorporate some of the other ideas mentioned above; otherwise, you will not remember the words and meanings for very long.
These can be quite interesting as they often provide the origin of the word and other interesting facts related to its history and use.
Play word games
Playing word games such as scrabble can be a fun way to use some of the new words you’ve been learning. Of course, this depends on the luck of the draw in scrabble.
Completing crossword puzzles is another helpful tool, particularly because the clues are often definitions. Also, the games will introduce new words that you have never heard of before.
So, if you want to increase and improve your vocabulary, what are you waiting for?
Let’s get started!