Become a Word Nerd: How to Build Your Vocabulary

Image by Calamity Meg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Corina Koch MacLeod

This is a great tip for all students – including students whose first language is not English.

Building your vocabulary, or learning word meanings, helps you to better understand what you read. One of the best ways to enhance your vocabulary is to… 


In fact, students who read and write outside of school hours get higher scores on the OSSLT (Cheng et al., CANADIAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION 32, 1 (2009): 118148). Try to read for a minimum of 15 minutes each day, and while you read, pick two or three words you don’t know and look them up right away in a dictionary. Alternately, if you’re reading on your smartphone, use the convenient inline dictionary feature in your e-reading app to look up new words. Study the definition of each word and then go back to the text you were reading and reread the sentence containing the word. Does the word make more sense now? If you really want new words to stick, try and use them in a conversation or in your writing today.

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