How Speakers Can Increase Their Vocabulary

Playing Scrabble can boost a speaker's vocabulary
Playing Scrabble can boost a speaker’s vocabulary
Image Credit: mydalliance

Public speaking is actually pretty simple. What we do is we stand up in front of a group of people and then we use words to communicate thoughts and ideas with them – that’s what the importance of public speaking is all about. Note that I just told you how we do this – we use words. It stands to reason that if you know more words, you can do a better job of expressing your ideas to your audience. I’d like to think that we all have an ok vocabulary size, but wouldn’t you agree with me that if it was larger, then you’d be a better speaker?

Ways To Go About Increasing Your Vocabulary Size

So just exactly how many words do we know? It turns out that, of course, our total vocabulary size varies greatly from person to person, but typically people use about 5,000 words in their speech and about twice that many in their writing. There are exceptions to every rule. A college-educated speaker of English could have a vocabulary as large as 80,000 words. Although I don’t think that there are a lot of these running around.

If we want to go about increasing the size of our vocabulary, then there are a number of different things that we can do. The first of these is to read more. During the course of reading a book you will undoubtedly come across one or more words who’s meaning you are not sure of – look it up! In today’s era of electronic books such as the Kindle, looking up a word that we are unsure of has become as easy as tapping on the display and causing the word’s definition to appear. Once you’ve done this be sure to write it down on a separate piece of paper so that you can review your list of new words and commit them to memory.

When we encounter a new word it can be quite difficult associate a meaning of the word with the actual word itself. The good news here is that there are a number of mental tricks that have been developed that allow us to do this more easily. One of the simplest tricks is to use what is called a “mem”. A mem is a visual mnemonic device. We can use them to make a vivid connection between the form of a word, and its meaning. Mems are so effective not only because they engage and amuse, but also because they create richer, less confusable, more robust and visual memories.

The Secret Of Scrabble

This learning of new words is all fine and such, but it sure seems like it is a lot of work. Isn’t there a better way to go about accomplishing the same thing? The answer to this question is somewhat surprisingly “yes”. The popular board game Scrabble is all about creating words in order to win points. The more that you play this game, the bigger your vocabulary can grow.

Once you start to play Scrabble, you’ll start looking at words differently. Instead of just a collection of letters organized in a given order, you’ll start to mentally play with them in order to see what other words you could create if you had those letters. Common things to do is to imagine what anagrams (a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another word) you can create or what words you could create by adding letters to either the beginning of the word or to the end of the word.

Having a large vocabulary helps you to express yourself more clearly. It can also help you to overcome common speaking challenges. One of the things that good speakers try to do is to eliminate jargon from their speeches. If you have a small vocabulary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a word to clearly substitute for a jargon word or phrase. However, if you’ve taken the time to increase the size of your vocabulary you should have multiple options that you can choose from in order to make your speech more clear.

What All Of This Means For You

Any time that we give a speech, we want to connect with our audience and clearly communicate to them the thoughts and ideas that we’ve put into our speech so that we can share with them the benefits of public speaking. However, in order to paint vivid mental images in our audience’s minds we need to be able to express ourselves using a rich collection of words. The more words that we know, the easier this is to do.

In order to boost the number of words that we have in our vocabulary, there are a number of different things that we can do. The first is to read more books. While reading, if we encounter a word that is not in our vocabulary we can look it up and write it down so that we can add it to our vocabulary. Additionally, we can use the concept of “mems” to associate new words with actions so that we can remember what they mean. Playing the board game Scrabble can also help us to boost our vocabulary.

Knowing that we need to increase the number of words that we both know and use is the first step in starting to build a bigger vocabulary. As the number of words that we know starts to increase, we are going to be able to do a better job of connecting with our audience. If we can make all of this happen just by spending some time playing more Scrabble, then we should all get the game out and start to play!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: When you are writing a speech, do you think that you should consult your list of words that you have just learned?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I speak in English. Unfortunately, the only language that I can effectively speak in is English. I have a number of friends whose first language is not English, but who do a very good job of both speaking in English and giving speeches in English in order to show the importance of public speaking. It turns out that if English is not your native tongue, you may run into some issues if you try to give a speech in English. Let’s take a look at what you need to watch out for.