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Limited Vocabulary

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I have a pretty limited vocabulary, and it hasn't really improved much in the last few years. It definitely shows in my writing, and I don't like the way my writing sounds sometimes because of its blandness and repetitive use of certain words.

Writers: What are the best ways go about integrating new words into your vocabulary? I understand that reading a lot likely contributes to a better vocabulary, but are there any specific methods used that speed up the process of remembering words or that are more effective than others?

Thanks in advance.

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I'm not sure if that would work, but you could try a spaced repetition software like Mnemosyne, and create flashcards. For each new word you want to remember you create several flashcards, for example on these patterns:

Question: Word definition

Answer: Word itself

Q: "His tip was very n.......y."

A: niggardly

Q: Synonym of "cheap", starting with n.

A: Niggardly

Then you make it a routine each day to enter say 10 new words, and of course to review the cards as they are presented to you by the software. Mnemosyne has helped me a lot for my studies. Dig around the Supermemo website for tips on how to phrase q / a pairs most effectively.

Also, check the book "Talent is overrated". Here is a brief excerpt about how Ben Franklin dealt with a similar problem:

When most young teenagers were skiving off with friends, Ben was enjoying debates with his dear and similarly bookish friend John Collins. Around the age of 14 one of their debates spilled over into a flurry of letters they sent back and forth to each other on the topic of whether women should be educated. Ben's father found the letters and read them. He didn't comment on the content but critiqued Ben's style. He felt his son was a first class logician. His arguments were well reasoned and his spelling was top notch. But he lacked elegance in expression and could improve his method and clarity. Ben accepted his father's assessment and set about improving himself.

As it happened Ben stumbled across a volume of The Spectator, a daily publication produced from 1711-12. Ben loved it and thought the writing was excellent. It was the perfect model to learn with to improve his writing.

He started by taking one of the essays and jotting down a note for each sentence indicating the sentiment it contained. He then put his notes aside for a few days and then by using his notes recreated the essay in his own words. Then he compared his version to the original and made corrections. Essay by essay he could see his approach improving his skills and in some small ways he felt his expression might even be better than the original. These glimmers of erudition gave him hope.

Despite the progress Ben felt he needed more. He wanted to expand his vocabulary. What better way then than to rewrite an essay's prose in verse. Again he would start with notes expressing the sentiment of each sentence but this time he wrote his version in verse. It forced him to add variety and creativity. After a few days he'd forget the original prose and so would then take his verse and use it to rewrite the essay. Again he made a comparison, made corrections and learned by doing.

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Wow, this is an interesting program! Thanks for introducing it to me; I will likely be using it for my schoolwork as well as vocabulary.

In regards to Benjamin Franklin's story, I am not sure what it means by 'sentiment.' Could you possibly elaborate?

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Wow, this is an interesting program! Thanks for introducing it to me; I will likely be using it for my schoolwork as well as vocabulary.

In regards to Benjamin Franklin's story, I am not sure what it means by 'sentiment.' Could you possibly elaborate?

In Franklin's day, 'sentiment' didn't just mean emotional content, it could mean, as it does in this context, the opinion being expressed by the sentence in question. Franklin was trying to learn how better to communicate ideas. By looking at others' means of accomplishing this, he was stretching himself, looking at means that he wouldn't have necessarily used, studying them, incorporating them where he thought they were more effective.

Writers do this, artists do this, musicians do this. For me, reading through a guitar composition forced me to do things I was initially uncomfortable doing, but the result was beautiful and learning to do what was required broke through my limited, habitual practice and made me a better musician. Franklin was doing this by studying and internalizing the techniques of other writers he thought initially superior. "Read selectively, but read lots" is good advice for a writer, if you read consciously and look up the words and phrases you don't know, applying them in your own practice.

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Read, read and then read some more. Read as much as you can, read things that strech your understanding and always have a dictionary close by to help you understand new terms. Your writing (and speaking) is only that which you are thinking put on paper, changing your thinking is what will change your writing.

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From personal experience I recommend following book, besides regular subscription of magazines like reader's digest

word-power-made-easy-thumb.jpg

http://www.amazon.com/reader/067174190X?_e..._pt#reader-link

My goodness, is this still in print? I second your choice, I cannot imagine a better book on the subject than this. My copy stems from the fifties.

What helps in this book is the way he goes to the stem of a word; it's origins. For example he takes an original Greek word tome " from Gk. -tomia "a cutting of," from tome "a cutting, section" (see tome). He then shows how this "tomy" is part of so many English words. Lobotomy, Hysterectomy, appendectomy, vasectomy etc. Should you hear a strange word one day, that ends with "tomy", you can have a pretty good guess as to it's meaning - something has been cut out.

This is just one example that shows understanding rather than only parrot type memorising is involved in improving one's vocabulary. The only problem I see is that society has changed so much that the type of discourse that involves lessor used words is rare. One needs to put the words to use so that they become automated and entrenched in memory. Texting is no help here.

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This is just one example that shows understanding rather than only parrot type memorising is involved in improving one's vocabulary. The only problem I see is that society has changed so much that the type of discourse that involves lessor used words is rare. One needs to put the words to use so that they become automated and entrenched in memory. Texting is no help here.

I think this has been my biggest problem. For me to remember a word I have to tie it with something else. To use a simple example, I took five years of Spanish. To remember a word like "simpático" (which means "nice" or "kind") I would tie the sound of the word with something related to the definition. Since simpático sounds like "sympathetic," it was an easy word to remember. This is a very simple example, but it sums up how I memorize words.

Thank you for the book recommendation, I will likely buy it. In my Biology course, I can typically remember the names of things through a similar method. For example, with the term "prokaryotic," I recall that "pro" means before, and "karyote" means nucleus. Therefore, I can tie those roots together to remember the definition.

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Thank you for the book recommendation, I will likely buy it. In my Biology course, I can typically remember the names of things through a similar method. For example, with the term "prokaryotic," I recall that "pro" means before, and "karyote" means nucleus. Therefore, I can tie those roots together to remember the definition.

I highly recommend the Word Power Made Easy book. That was my required vocabulary book in 10th grade. As a person who did spelling bee competitions growing up and have memorized prefixes, root words, and suffixes of mulitple languages, that book is amazing for improving your vocabulary. It can be difficult, but if you put in the time, you can definitely use the book to assist in your endeavors.

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[...] Writers: What are the best ways go about integrating new words into your vocabulary? [...]

My favorite workbooks are the first two:

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, MacMillan, Publ.

Practical English Handbook, Instructor's Annotated Edition, by Floyd C. Watkins and William B. Dillingham, Houghton Mifflin Co., Publ.

They will act as good psychology books in the sense that the mind is taught new ways to deal with ideas and to more precisely express the ideas with language. Reading them is a pleasure for the mind.

A good dictionary is useful. Ayn Rand said that the oldest dictionary that you can find is the best because the modernistic-nuanced meanings are not presented as definitions in the older editions. A working list of words and their sentence contexts is helpful. Then find the meaning and use the appropriate words in your own writings.

Books regarding Objectivism:

The Ayn Rand Lexicon, Objectivism from A to Z, edited by Harry Binswanger, Meridian, Publ.

The philosophy terms are good to learn, e.g., deductive and inductive logic, and others.

The words that were the most difficult for me to integrate are epistemology and metaphysics. I struggled with the meanings of those for months or years, and I still re-read passages by Ayn Rand and Aristotle to further understand the meanings.

Inventor

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I have a pretty limited vocabulary, and it hasn't really improved much in the last few years. It definitely shows in my writing, and I don't like the way my writing sounds sometimes because of its blandness and repetitive use of certain words.

Writers: What are the best ways go about integrating new words into your vocabulary? I understand that reading a lot likely contributes to a better vocabulary, but are there any specific methods used that speed up the process of remembering words or that are more effective than others?

Thanks in advance.

My advice would be to continue reading a lot and looking for authors that expand your vocabulary. I've found that Stephen King uses quite a few words that I didn't know. I read on a Kindle which makes it very easy to look up words.

You might also use a synonym dictionary when you are editing your work. I think this is better than just a thesaurus because the synonym dictionary discusses the connotations of the different words and gives examples of how they are typically used.

Sean

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I'm happy I discovered this thread, I want to expend my vocabulary also. I just ordered 'Word Power Made Easy'. I hope it'll help.

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