How to Improve Your Vocabulary, Part One

Given the importance that language plays in our daily lives—think about your own communication with your customers and employees—we felt it well worth passing along this valuable column from Brian Tracy, chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International.

The original is longer than we typically like to run for Success Monday so you can catch part two next week. In the meantime, though, this will get you started.

“Language is a powerful tool, and the better you are at wielding it the better your results will be. If you want to engage your audience and pique their interest, you need to develop exceptional written communication skills. A big part of improving your writing skills is simply learning how to improve your vocabulary.

Below, we’ll take a comprehensive look at why improving your vocabulary matters, and we’ll review a variety of methods that you can use to quickly grow your vocabulary.

Why Learn Vocabulary?

When you’re working as a writer, words are the only tool that you have available to help you communicate a personality, an emotion, or an idea.

Therefore, the more words you know and can use, the more likely it is that you will be able to find the perfect way to string together your thoughts into a message that will get the job done.

Having a large vocabulary allows you to say the same thing in a variety of different ways.

This means that you will be able to rewrite ideas from resources that you find without plagiarizing the original source.

You’ll also be able to better customize your message to specific audiences.

Of course, having a mastery of the English language will also improve the quality of your writing as well, and help you establish a sense of professionalism and expertise.

In summary, if you intend to use written material to share a message or communicate with the masses, in any way, expanding your vocabulary is an excellent way to make it easier for you and the intended targets of your communication.

Expand Vocabulary No Matter What Level

You may already have an impressive vocabulary or you may be starting out with only a basic set of words that you are able to pull from when you’re writing.

The good news is that no matter where you are starting out, the process for improving your vocabulary even further remains the same.

How to Expand Your Vocabulary as A Writer

Expanding your written vocabulary is, fortunately, much easier than expanding your speaking vocabulary.

The reason for this is that writing offers two big advantages that speaking does not: time to think and a backspace key.

When you’re writing, you’ll have all the time you need to search your mind (or a thesaurus) for the exact word that you need.

You’ll also have the ability to delete a word or a sentence and start over if need be.

Nevertheless, the goal is to eliminate the need for these things as much as possible.

Consulting a dictionary or a thesaurus every few minutes may be fine starting out, but it’s going to make for a slow, painstaking writing process.

You’ll be much better served by having a deep vocabulary that you can draw from at-will in your writing so that the words flow quickly and effortlessly from your mind to the keyboard.

Vocabulary Strategies

If you’re ready to start improving your vocabulary, there are a variety of strategies that you can employ. It’s important to note, though, that all of these strategies take time and effort.

Mastering the English language overnight is no more possible than it is to master any other skill overnight.

With that said, these strategies are still designed to help you improve your vocabulary skills as quickly and as effectively as possible.

Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the strategies you can use to expand your vocabulary.

How Can I Learn Vocabulary Words?

Some effective strategies for learning new vocabulary words that you can put to use in your writing include:

1. Read … A Lot

Reading everything you can get your hands on is one of the most passive and most effective ways to boost your vocabulary.

When you read, you’ll see new words put into use by writers who are likely to have a diverse vocabulary and you can add these words to your own vocabulary as you come across them.

The best part about reading to improve your vocabulary is that it doesn’t matter what it is that you read; whether it’s a how-to guide on the internet, a romance novel, or anything in-between, the simple act of digesting written material will drastically improve your vocabulary over time.

2. Keep A Thesaurus and A Dictionary Nearby

Dictionaries and thesauruses are the two most effective vocabulary-expanding tools that you have available, and you can use each of them in a slightly different way.

Whenever you come across a word that you don’t understand, look it up in a dictionary and take the time to commit the word and its definition to memory.

Meanwhile, you can look up words that you already know in a thesaurus at any time to find other words that mean the same thing.

Commit a few of those words to memory and you’ll have the ability to say the same thing in a number of different, more eloquent ways.

3. Make Flashcards

There’s a good reason why flashcards are a favorite memorization tool for students everywhere, and that reason is that they work well.

Start by putting together a few dozen flash cards filled with words that you don’t yet have committed to your vocabulary, and frequently add new flashcards to your collection.

If you run through these flashcards just once a day you will be well on your way to expanding your vocabulary.

4. Describe Your Surroundings

Whenever you’re sitting in traffic, relaxing at home, waiting in line at the coffee shop, or otherwise not preoccupied, try a mental exercise where you describe your surroundings in your head.

Do you know the name of everything in your setting?

What words would you use to describe the people around you?

Ask yourself questions such as this and paint a mental picture of the world around you using the most descriptive language that you can.

Exercises such as this will help you put the new words you use into practice in order to better commit them to your memory.

5. Listen To Music

In the same way that reading grows your vocabulary, listening can grow your vocabulary as well.

Listening to music is one good option, especially if you are listening to artists that are creative with their verses and rhymes.

However, listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and more can also improve your vocabulary over time as well.

6. Commit to Learning One New Word Every Day

Learning just one new word a day isn’t a particularly challenging goal, yet it is one that can make a dramatic difference in your vocabulary.

Each day, choose a new word to memorize and try to use that word as often as you can throughout the day.”

—Part two coming in the next Success Monday

Brian Tracy is an internationally renowned speaker and consultant on topics such as leadership, sales success, time management and more. To read more, go to