An Extract from Macbeth

Whether you’re a writer or a telemarketer, it’s good to improve your vocabulary. Having a command of effective words is not only important in writing, it is also essential in everyday speech. But how do you collect new words? Well, you can get yourself a thesaurus or a vocabulary textbook and to pick up new words from it. But as we know, that method is awfully repetitive and, simply, boring.

Collect the words

There’s a much more comfortable way to learn new words. Buy a notebook, or alternatively, download a word-processing application for your smart phone. Then start recording new words into your notebook. There are a number of ways to do that, but the idea is to keep a lookout for new or useful words.

  1. If you read newspapers or magazines, select a couple of new words and jot them in your notebook. If you’ve forgotten to take your vocabulary notebook with you (which you shouldn’t do, btw), you can emphasize the words with a yellow highlighter or a pencil.
  2. When reading a book, keep your vocabulary notebook close to you and be ready to take a few notes occasionally. Focus on the words the author keeps repeating.
  3. Do the same while surfing the Web.
  4. Pay attention to what words other people are using. People on the train, your teachers, television hosts, et cetera.

Some words you select won’t, and shouldn’t be, completely new to you. It’s good to reinforce your active vocabulary by re-registering the words and phrases that you rarely use. This practice is particularly good for idioms that, when used sparingly, can sprinkle your sentences with vitality.

Process the words

Once you have added your first words into your vocabulary notebook, you can start analyzing them. It isn’t a bad practice to decide when to process your new word collections. You might want to go over the list after collecting five words, 10 words, or 25 words. Or it could be a weekly practice.

When you analyze your word lists, you should

  1. look each word up in a dictionary, and
  2. think of scenarios when you could use the word or phrase.

It’s important that you get the correct meaning of a word. Don’t settle for an ambiguous definition. If you don’t know the exact meaning of a word, you shouldn’t use it; get it right first. The purpose of improving your vocabulary is to make your sentences more succinct—not to flaunt your jargon. And when you’re writing and stumble upon a hazy word, consult your dictionary.

Do some role-playing. When you have your list, go over each word and try to think of instances when you could use it. When you associate words with fitting scenarios in your mind, it’s easier to access them in the future, and it makes it easier for you to remember the correct definition. Also, try to get the right word. Is it really appropriate to say ‘insipid coffee’ instead of ‘bad coffee’?

Remember that writing the words down alone won’t help you; you have to analyze them if you want to make them part of your vocabulary. Understand that many words are delicate and should not be used excessively.