Highly effective people may sharpen the saw to renew their energy and stay on top of their game, but the happy owl recommends a twist on Stephen Covey’s seventh habit: sharpen your claw by deliberately building your vocabulary each day! A good vocabulary is essential to powerful writing. Plus, the more words you know, the easier it is to choose the most effective word for any particular purpose.
One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary is through osmosis: reading great literature and hanging out with really smart people. Another, more active approach involves capturing unknown words – and their definitions – and making a point to try them out later, in real life. Whichever way you choose, the most important thing is to do it intentionally!
Here are a few of Scholar’s Secret’s favorite resources for improving vocabulary:
- Word of the Day from dictionary.com. This service delivers one new word via email each day. But simply receiving the word is not enough: you must commit to using it in normal conversation the very same day it arrives!
- A Way with Words from National Public Radio. Hosted by word maestro (and slang expert) Grant Barrett and author Martha Barnette, this hour-long radio show brings new words, old sayings, and local expressions to life in a way that’ll make you think, smile, and laugh. Learning was never so fun!
- The Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate by Eugene Ehrlich (HarperCollins, 1994). The dust jacket says to use this book “when you’re looking not for the English we all know so well, but the English we want to know well.” Writers, beware: these words are tough!
- And then there’s vocabulary.com, a site to which the happy owl is hopelessly addicted. Vocabulary.com uses adaptive learning technology to determine your knowledge level. It then teaches and reinforces only level-appropriate words. And who can resist a definition like this: “A really rich and creamy piece of warm vanilla cake with a large hot chocolate: that’s luxuriant.”
Whether you’re a student or a pro, take the time each day to expand your personal lexicon. Doing so will ensure writing (and speech) that’s clear and precise. Need a little nudge? Contact Scholar’s Secret anytime!