Precise communication depends on using the right word
In my communication and writing programs, someone usually asks how they can improve their vocabulary and pronunciation skills.
I sympathize with them. As an avid reader from childhood, my vocabulary was always pretty robust. However, no one in my family advanced beyond high school, so I didn’t hear many of the words spoken.
My pronunciation often was wrong.
In school, I would be teased for mispronouncing a word. In the business world, teasing became snickering. I’m not sure which was worse, so I set about improving my pronunciation.
Here’s what I did and suggest to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation skills:
- Read a variety of good, well-written books, magazines, and newspapers to expand your vocabulary in new areas.
- Look up any words you don’t understand.
- Buy or find online a good dictionary and use it. Look up every word you do not recognize. Some online dictionaries, such as merriam-webster.com, often have a pronunciation tool. You can hear the word pronounced and used in a sentence. You also can use a site such as www.howjsay.com to hear how the word is spoken.
- Set a goal to improve your vocabulary by learning the meaning and proper pronunciation of at least 20 new words each week. Use them in your conversation the following week.
- Ask someone you trust to correct you when you misuse or mispronounce a word.
- Do crossword puzzles and word games. It’s okay to peek at the answers!
- Play Scrabble® with an app or with someone who has a better vocabulary than you. (My Scrabble app is a formidable challenger.)
- Learn words with similar and opposite meanings to give your vocabulary variety.
- Check out the Online Writing Laboratory at Purdue University for help with writing accurately.
To succeed in business, people must recognize us as professionals who are technically proficient and who also can communicate effectively. Having a powerful vocabulary — knowing the right words and how to pronounce them — gives us credibility and authority.
I continue to improve my vocabulary by reading outside my areas of expertise. Even though I now teach webinars and workshops, I still occasionally come across a word I can’t pronounce. I have found that if I admit I don’t know how to pronounce it, someone will help me without snickering.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” Mark Twain
What tips to you have to improve vocabulary? Please share them in the responses
Need more help? Check out my two free guides to Grammar and Word Usage and immediately improve your skills and go to the Online Writing Laboratory at Purdue University for grammar and punctuation help.