Here at Communication Collective, we talk a lot about learning and improving our communication. We coach the skills of body language, the power of the pause, and active listening.  One aspect many of us might overlook is the enhancement of our vocabulary and what impact this has on our ability to communicate effectively.

We’ve all read articles where it’s clear a thesaurus has been in action – and it doesn’t read well; obscure descriptions used for dramatic effect with ten words instead of one.  If you ever do a fiction writing course a critical piece of early information is to put away the thesaurus. Obscurity = evidence of an amateur.

But whilst we appreciate this, we also know that overuse of the same descriptive word reduces its impact.  How often have you seen a chef describe something as ‘delicious’ and questioned whether it’s really delicious, or heard a speaker introduced as brilliant, and been a little cynical about the use of the description? 

So we aren’t allowed to reach for a thesaurus for fear of being pretentious, but how then can we improve our communication through language? How do we improve our vocabularies allowing us to better use our own power to communicate, to influence, to connect?

Oracy – defined as the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech is a significant part of the curriculum – along with reading and writing but we seem to stop learning as adults and assume we have all we need in our vocabulary creating a place that’s comfortable and easily accessed. 

Would you consider expansion – can you appreciate the benefit?

A few steps below to help you improve your vocabulary– without losing your audience and becoming a walking thesaurus!

Notebooks are key

Reading a new word, and saying a new word are all great steps – but the reality is we need to write it down; investigate it; understand its other meanings; and learn its roots and uses to get it properly embedded into our own language.  We need to become so familiar with the word and we need to take ownership of it.  With a notes page on all our devices, we have no excuses.

Reading

We know with children reading matters but the same applies to adults.  The more we read the more we improve our vocabulary but as we discussed above just knowing the word isn’t sufficient.  Once we learn it you’ve got to use it to help cement the power.  Can we challenge ourselves to use the word three times in three different ways? 

Knowing a word won’t commit it to memory – using it will.

Watch Television

Not many times do you find advice to watch more television but what about using it as a vocab enhancer and creating a list of words we might not readily use but enjoyed hearing?  It’s also worth throwing in a few different genres that introduce the brain to broader vocabulary.

The P of the Pause

We are fully in tune with the power of the pause in a presentation and we know the benefits but another aspect is pausing allows our brain to catch up and slot in more interesting words.

Speaking fast our brain reaches for the words we use most – talking slowly gives us time to think.

Ban it….

Ban the words very and nice.  If we challenge ourselves to refrain from using them our brain will search for alternatives and naturally increase our vocab.  A simple practice answer to ‘How was your weekend?’ – without the words very and nice – what words came to the fore?

Educate Ourselves

Our brains are much more likely to remember information if the topic interests us – reading history books if history is your thing is much more likely to sink in than spending time reading about fashion if you haven’t any interest – again notebook in hand. 

Building and developing our vocabulary is an ongoing process – we need to develop a love of new words and respect their power.  We all need a large active vocabulary and once we immerse ourselves in the world of the words it’s easy to appreciate our growth.

Sign up for a Word A Day from Merriam Webster

Listen to the BBC 6 Minute Vocabularly Podcast

And Word of the Day from Amazon and Word of the Day from Dictionary.com – both available wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Don’t forget check out our videos visit YouTube where you’ll find a few of our short tips and advice videos.