Ideas for Improving Your Vocabulary

  1. A good dictionary can help you learn new words more easily. A good dictionary has definitions that are easy for you to understand. One good dictionary is The Newbury House Online Dictionary.

  2. Start writing down words that are new to you. Look up their meanings in the dictionary and write down what these words mean. Pay special attention to words you see in your textbooks and in professional journal articles in your field. You can keep your list of new words in a notebook, in the computer, or on a set of index cards. Keep this list in one place. Use this list to look up these words when you see them again.

  3. When you read the dictionary, PAY ATTENTION.
    • Don't stop reading after the first few words of the definition—read the whole definition.
    • Some dictionaries will give you examples of how you can use new words. Make sure you read these examples. They can help you understand how you can use the new word.
    • Also, be careful. Many words have more than one meaning. The same word can mean different things in different sentences! The dictionary will list the different definitions of each word. When you look up a word, make sure you find the definition that makes sense in the sentence or paragraph you are reading.

  4. When you think you understand what a word means, then write a sentence using that new word. Ask someone who has good English skills to read the sentences you wrote to see if you have used these words correctly. You can ask a friend or a teacher for help. You can also make an appointment with an English tutor at English Works! for help.

  5. English Works! has some vocabulary books for students who want to improve their vocabulary. Some of these books are easy and some of them are hard. These books include exercises to help you remember new words. Ask English Works! staff to help you find a book that is right for you. You may be able to buy some of these books somewhere else for your own use. Or you might be able to copy a few exercises from English Works! books.

  6. Are you ready to learn some big words? Look for the magazine Reader's Digest. (Try the Gallaudet library.) Every issue of Reader's Digest has a vocabulary quiz with 20 words. The quiz answers are included in the magazine. These quizzes usually include very challenging words. These quizzes can be a good way to learn new words. Reader's Digest also offers the Word Power vocabulary game online (requires registration and login).
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