building a writer's vocabulary
Writers and readers are natural word lovers. We eat them up like candy. We savor their sounds and syllabic formations. We devour their idiosyncratic meanings and marvel at their punctiliousness.
Face it, we are word nerds and proud of it.
That said, not every writer arrives into this world with an endless vocabulary. Like anyone, we need to build it.
As a kid, I would read the dictionary. (Don't laugh, some of you did, too.) I would write down unusual words and practice using them at home (where it was safer) then in school essays (where I could impress). Unfortunately, reading the dictionary isn't the best way to increase your vocabulary.
Reading books is.
If you want your suitcase of words to multiply, here are some tips.
Read. The most obvious and easiest way to build your vocabulary is to read. I work with teens, and I can always spot a reader by the words the student uses in speaking and writing. It's not about reading anything. It's about reading authors who use words in interesting ways. Try THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS or any book by Ernest Hemingway. The funny thing about Hemingway is that he uses simple vocabulary to weave complex thoughts. That's the key. It's not the word you use but how you use it.
Use new words in conversation. When you are learning a new language, you will only improve if you practice it. Practice using words in different contexts. Challenge yourself. Throughout your day, try using the word reduce in every form: reduce (v), reduction (n), reduced (adj).
Use new words in writing. Poetry is a great way to explore words. Write down three words you love and three words whose definitions are unclear to you. Put these six words together in a poem. It's a challenge, but it will force you to understand the subtlety of these words.
Words bring me joy. When I hear them used in a way I hadn't ever thought of, it tickles my fancy. How do you expand your vocabulary? Share with us in the comments below.
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