Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

11 June 2024

Ask Novlr

How can you expand your vocabulary to avoid repetition?

Expand your vocabulary - Ask Novlr

I grew up in a bilingual household with a Mother whose first language isn’t English. She is a wonderful writer who creates brilliant and engaging resources for language teachers.

One of the big things she had to work on to get to that point was vocabulary. But not just the words; it was also the context and how to use those words properly. Ironically, we discovered that English as her second language was actually of benefit to her in this, as she had to be more thoughtful about the way she used language than a native speaker would be.

Like any language, the real trick is immersion. So here are some effective strategies for growing your vocabulary to bring more variety and nuance to your writing. There is always room to expand your lexicon and take your writing to the next level, whether you’re a native English speaker or not, and these tips might also help any writer who plans to write in a language other than English! So let’s explore some practical tips for building a rich and diverse vocabulary.

Why expanding your vocabulary matters

Before we dive into the strategies, let’s take a moment to understand why expanding your vocabulary is so important for creative writers:

  • A diverse vocabulary allows you to express ideas with greater precision and nuance.
  • It helps you avoid repetition and keeps your writing fresh and engaging.
  • A strong vocabulary can make your writing more memorable and impactful.
  • It demonstrates your mastery of the language and can help you stand out as a writer.
  • Expanding your vocabulary can improve your reading experiences.
  • It can give you the confidence to explore new genres and styles that you may have previously avoided.

Strategies for expanding your vocabulary

Read widely and consistently

One of the most effective ways to expand your vocabulary is to read extensively. By exposing yourself to a variety of genres, authors, and styles, you’ll encounter new words in context, which can help you understand their meanings and usage. Again, it’s about immersion. Surrounding yourself with language helps develop your understanding, and seeing words in different contexts will cement them as second nature.

Here are some tips for making the most of your reading:

  • Set aside dedicated reading time each week, even if it’s just for 20-30 minutes.
  • Choose books, articles, and other materials that challenge you and introduce new concepts and vocabulary.
  • Keep a dictionary or thesaurus nearby to look up unfamiliar words as you encounter them.
  • Take notes on new words and phrases that resonate with you, and try writing exercises to use them in context.
  • Consider joining a book club or discussion group to explore new genres and authors, and to engage in conversations about language and writing.
  • Don’t be afraid to tackle challenging texts; they often offer the greatest opportunities for growth.

Use word-of-the-day resources

Another great way to expand your vocabulary is to make a habit of learning new words each day. There are many online resources and apps that offer “word of the day” features, which can help you discover new words and their meanings. Some popular options include:

Play word games and puzzles

Word games and puzzles can be a fun and engaging way to expand your vocabulary. When we were growing up, my mother would play these games with us when we brought them home from school, and she said they were a great help in improving her own vocabulary. They challenge you to think creatively about language, can introduce you to new words and concepts, and can be a fun thing to do with friends and family! Some popular options include:

Use a thesaurus (but use it wisely)

A thesaurus can be a valuable tool for finding new words and phrases to use in your writing. However, it’s important to use it wisely and avoid simply replacing words with their synonyms without considering the context and connotation. Here are some tips for using a thesaurus effectively:

  • Find words that more precisely convey your intended meaning rather than just avoid repetition.
  • Consider the connotation and tone of the words you choose, and make sure they fit the context of your writing.
  • Don’t overuse obscure or overly complex words just for the sake of it. Clarity and readability should always be your top priorities.
  • Use a combination of a thesaurus and a dictionary to ensure you fully understand the meaning and usage of new words.

Practice writing with your new vocabulary

Finally, the best way to solidify your new vocabulary is to put it into practice in your writing. As you learn new words and phrases, make a conscious effort to incorporate them into your work. Here are some ideas for practising with your new vocabulary:

  • Set yourself a challenge to use a certain number of new words as a writing prompt.
  • Write short stories or poems that focus on a particular theme or concept inspired by a new word you’ve learned. Use your new vocabulary to explore it in depth.
  • Revise older pieces of writing and look for opportunities to replace overused words with more precise or evocative alternatives.
  • Keep a journal or notebook where you jot down new words and reflect on how and when you might use them in your writing. Write down contextual snippets. This can help you internalise their meanings and make them a more natural part of your vocabulary.

In summary

Expanding your vocabulary is an ongoing process that requires dedication and practice. By reading widely, learning new words each day, playing word games, using a thesaurus wisely, and practising with your new vocabulary, you can develop a rich and diverse vocabulary that will take your creative writing to new heights.

Remember, the key is to be consistent and to always strive for clarity and precision in your word choices. With time and effort, you’ll be amazed at how much your vocabulary grows and how it transforms your writing