I’ve been a long-time subscriber to Readers Digest. Although I read every joke and anecdote, I only read some of the articles. (You may draw your own conclusion about what that means.)
A favorite feature of mine is “Word Power,” a multiple-choice vocab test, which for me sometimes ends up more like a “multiple guess” effort in futility. I faithfully take every test, normally scoring in the second-highest category. Over many years of trying, I’ve only aced it four times. However, once I did worse than had I merely guessed every answer and gotten the statistically probable number correct. I hope it was just an off day.
Why do I subject myself to this? First, I do it for the challenge, but more importantly, I want to expose myself to new words. I’m not sure how much I actually retain, but it does help.
Another means to expand my vocabulary is crossword puzzles. I do know those help, plus they’re more fun and less frustrating.
A third way to learn more words is to read extensively. Of course, it helps to have a dictionary handy to actually look up words instead of merely guessing their meaning through context. When I use my Kindle, I access definitions at a mere finger tap—most of the time.
As I write, I frequently use Word’s thesaurus or an online version. More often than not, on my way to finding the right word, I pick up a new one, too, for later use.
Anything we can do to expand our pool of usable words will help us as writers.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.