Since having a large vocabulary is quite important for success in comprehension and communication, it is wise to develop a strategy to improve your word-power. This is not as difficult as you might think, and since there is no exam to pass this can even become an exciting hobby.
Plenty of help is available for the interested person, and I explain some of them below. Choose one or more according to your need and strategy.
1-Vocabulary Development Columns: A lot of people are interested in learning new words, and this has caused many periodicals to establish a column devoted exclusively to vocabulary-building. The INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER column of the Reader’s Digest is the best example.
Reader’s Digest, however, is not the only publication that has a column like this. Many regional language periodicals and even children’s magazines carry similar columns. Try you hand at whatever you can locate and find useful.
A children’s magazine that my son loves to read carries a regular column on words. Each word is explained, applied, and illustrated with the help of a funny picture. The approach is so humorous that the word immediately gets imprinted in the mind. Try the magazines available to you.
2-Vocabulary Related Books: The types jobs where vocabulary skill is important has been increasing constantly. Since people aspiring for such jobs are past school or college age, many of them have started looking to books for help. What is more, the entrance exam for many jobs now include vocabulary tests. This has given a great impetus to book publishing on vocabulary related subjects. Pick up one or more according to your need.
It is difficult to cite a universally available book, but that is not needed seeing the large number of good titles available. However, my all time favourite is “Instant Vocabulary” by Ida Ehrlich. Nothing worthwhile in life can be gained instantly, yet here is a book that lives up to its promise. Using a unique approach, this book will increase your verbal power extremely fast. What’s more, in different editions, this book is easily available all over the world.
Do not despair if you are unable to locate the above-mentioned books. Almost any good book will be helpful. The only care to take is not to invest money in a very expensive books. The beginner should begin with a relatively inexpensive paperback and then graduate to a heavier book after gaining an insight into vocabulary-building.
3-Thesaurus And Reverse Dictionaries: In addition to the vocabulary-building books mentioned above, you must definitely acquire at least one Thesaurus. This should be your constant companion besides your dictionary.
A Thesaurus or Reverse Dictionary is a dictionary of synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and much more. It will help you to find the word that best fits your purpose. It is often called a “Reverse” dictionary because it’s used somewhat opposite to the way a dictionary is used. Dictionaries are used to find the meaning of words. Thesauruses and Reverse Dictionaries, however, are used to find the best word to express the thought or meaning that you already have in your mind !!
The most comprehensive Thesauruses are the Miriam-Webster and Roget’s. These are available both in expensive hardbound as well as in cheaper paperback editions. Sometimes you might even see dictionaries and thesauruses combined in one volume. The only care to take here is not to go for abridged or condensed editions. Go for the normal ones, and they will not cost you a fortune. Reverse Dictionaries introduced recently will cost you much more because they do not face much competition yet. A higher price need not give you higher quality to usefulness. Miriam-Webster and Roget are still my favourites.
4-Good Quality Dictionaries: I mentioned dictionaries several lessons ago, and I want to emphasize it again that no writing is possible without a good dictionary or two. There is no end to the making of dictionaries, and there is no end to the preference different people have for different editions. Feel free to stick to your preference (Webster, Chambers, Oxford, Random House, COBUILD or anything else) as long as you purchase the correct types.
I strongly recommend that you buy two dictionaries — a pocket one, and a full-sized one. Most writers, by nature, are too lazy to open and consult a full-size, heavy, dictionary. The pocket dictionary makes the task simple. Also, this is all what you need when you start writing.
The most comprehensive pocket dictionary available anywhere is the Collins Gem Dictionary. Published by Collins, the present edition has more than 30,000 entries. The approach has been so successful that now the same company has introduced Gem (pocket) dictionaries on numerous subjects and languages. (In the most unlikely case where you don’t find Collins, you can try Webster or other pocket dictionaries).
Buy one, carry it wherever you write, and your life will no longer be the same again !!
Use the larger, comprehensive, dictionary in your collection for locating and studying words in greater detail, and also for finding words not found in the pocket dictionary.
5-Word Games: If you can get yourself interested in playing word-games, it will open up an entirely new world. Word-games include Cross-word Puzzles, Cryptic Puzzles, Scrabbles, and other vocabulary-based games.
Cross-Words are a common feature of many newspapers, periodicals, and even Christian magazines. Cryptic Words is more rare, but it challenges both your logic as well as vocabulary.
Scrabbles is a standard word-building game available all over the world. These games give you at least three things: entertainment/relaxation, verbal exercise, and new vocabulary. A few years spent with these can give you unusual capability at recalling words almost instantly.