Jordan Ogren

May 18, 2021

6 ways to increase your vocabulary. And why you should care.

I admit it, I’m dense (I had to look up synonyms for unintelligent, and dense sounded good).

I wish I were smarter—I wish I could use more sophisticated words.

Not so sophisticated that I come off as a pompous ass. I just wish I had a more extensive vocabulary.

Have you ever thought about how large your vocabulary is?

I didn’t until I read this out of Mastering the Craft of Writing by Stephen Wilbers.

“Having a broad range of words at our command and knowing how and when to use them is key to memorable writing.” — Stephen Wilbers

I never thought about improving my vocabulary until I read that.

But from the books I’ve read and enjoyed, I realized that writing with clarity comes from choosing better words.

And not only writing but also thinking. 

When you have an expansive library of words to describe different things, you will think more clearly.

This became clear to me in the book How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett when she discusses Emotional Granularity.

When you have more words to describe how you feel, you will be more accurate in defining how you feel.

Think about if you only had three words to describe how you felt; happy, sad, or mad.

You would be pretty inaccurate in describing how you feel.

The same is true with writing. The more words you have to choose from, the more specific you can get.

And as we know, specificity = detail = better reading experience.

So, how can you widen your vocabulary?

Here are six tips from Mastering the Craft of Writing:

  1. Be curious about language (I hope this email accomplished that for you) 
  2. Listen and watch for words you don’t know
  3. Read more
  4. Use a dictionary to look up words you don’t know 
  5. Move words from your comprehensive (passive) to your expressive (active) vocabulary
  6. Be systemic (set a goal around growing your vocabulary)

My favorite tip is #3. 

Reading a book a week has subconsciously improved my word choice. And it has made me less dense (I hope).

Which tip will you implement this week?

🧠 // JO