There are two types of writers in the world. Those who have such a huge ‘hoarding’ of vocabulary that it becomes impossible to flow with their writing. And those whose vocabulary is so sparse that they are not able to replace “very” with more appropriate words. both types have their own particular vocabulary learning strategies.
Where do you stand?
But is it really important where do you stand?
Because both the extremes need to learn and if you are already in the middle then you surely need to learn.
So the key is to LEARN.
But the real problem arises how to learn as the individuals who already know the language consider themselves proficient as compared to the whole wide world.
But we are talking about a living language here. The living breathing words which, when put together effectively can create music but a slight mistake can create a lethal jarring effect.
The choice is yours. Adopt and perfect an effective style or stick to your boring routine.
How can you achieve that?
Here are some activities you can indulge in to start on the lifelong journey of vocabulary enhancement for a better writing style.
Read a Lot
The processes of reading and writing are so closely knitted that experts advise learning both the skills simultaneously. Reading gives you an opportunity to have a first-hand encounter with words, their usage and the formation of sentences leading to different styles. Don’t limit yourself to one genre of literature. Explore the literary world. Read the poems and novels and stories and classic and modern literature. Do not just stop at anything. You will find your inner voice sooner than later.
How to exploit what you read?
Make lists. At the initial stages, it is advised to jot down every new word with its meaning and usage. Repeat it the next day. Use it in a different context. Use it in your daily life context. Use a notebook or word document or excel sheet to record your daily progress. Make sure to come back to it regularly. PRACTICE.
This one practice alone can actually make you feel the difference in your style. Get hold of a notebook. Divide it into different categories and start filling up each category with words or phrases that are different, interesting and relevant. Do not just fill it. Use it also. So every time you are planning to write something, open your Vocabulary Book, find some interesting phrases and enrich your expression. Use a thesaurus along with this vocabulary book. Do not think for a minute that you are practically copying pasting someone else’s ideas. As Hemingway said, “In any art, you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”
So, aim for something better.
Vocabulary or Flash Cards is another very effective technique to improve the vocabulary. Take card stock and cut it into small flash cards. On one side write your newly discovered word and on its back write the meaning, usage, and origin. These cards can be small enough to fit in your wallet or pockets. Sneak a look at your card where and whenever possible.
Give yourself reading and writing opportunities. In the next few weeks, I will share some writing prompts to help you run your creative juices flow freely. So, during your writing sessions use the new words and phrases to have a better practice.
Find a writing partner and help each other to learn, explore and use vocabulary regularly.
The extensive research on the enhancement and usage of vocabulary has given us many expert opinions and strategies to rely on. Nation in 2001, organized different elements (form, meaning, and usage) that are involved in the understanding of a new word:
a) FORM is divided into Spoken, Written and Word Parts:
Spoken elements raise the questions such as, what does the word sound like? How is the word pronounced?
Written elements talk about, what does the word look like? How is the word written or spelled?
Words Parts indicate, what parts are recognizable in this word? What word parts are needed to express this meaning?
b) MEANING is divided into Form and meaning, Concepts and referents and Associations:
Form and Meaning shows, what meaning does this word form signal? What word form can be used to express this meaning?
Concepts and referents indicate, what is included in the concept? What items can the concept refer to?
Association works for, what other words does this make us think of? What other words could we use instead of this one?
c) USAGE is basically divided into Grammatical functions, Collocations, and Constraints on use.
Grammatical Functions refer to, in what patterns does this word occur? In what patterns must we use this word?
Collocations are about, what words or types of words occur with this one? What words or types of words must we use with this one?
Constraints on Use are indicative of, where, when, and how often would we expect to meet this word? Where, when, and how often can we use this word?
Of course you do not have to memorize or plan your life according to these elements, but basic understanding of what you are studying always help in conquering many obstacles.
Some memory strategies were proposed by Schmitt in 1997.
- Group the words together on a page
- Use keywords in a sentence
- Imagine the meaning of a new word in a sentence
- Remember the prefixes and roots
- Connect and use the word to personal experience
- Grouping words together in a storyline
- Keeping a track of parts of speech
- Study the spellings
- Paraphrase the meaning of the word
Discover new words in your classroom, newspapers, on the street, on TV, music, movies – make a conscious effort to see and remember.
Never underestimate the power of well written sentence with an apt use of words.