Best way to expand my vocabulary?

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Angst
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Angst » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:30 pm

As many have already suggested: read. And with each new book, start a new note card/bookmark and write down the definition for any word you need to look up. I still do this on occasion, and I include the typically Latin or Greek derivation of the word. And then every time you pick up the book to continue reading it, quickly review the words on its card.

You'll find that certain authors are apt to reuse certain words, and reading books by the same author consecutively can help you with those new words. Moreover, reading multiple books by a great writer can help imbue your mind with his or her style. There's much more to vocabulary than numbers of words - it's how you deploy them.

If you like fiction, try some of the 19th century classics. Word usage and prose in general in that period is... classic, let's say. Consider the likes of Thomas Harding, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, George Elliot, Henry James, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Stendhal, Balzac, Alexander Dumas... obviously many more... Mark Twain... Jane Austen... and those Russians too. Of course there's much more out there, but these are some suggestions that quickly come to my mind.

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby 691175002 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:10 pm

Sounding intelligent is more about style than vocabulary. Intentionally overusing obscure words makes you incomprehensible. [OT comment removed by moderator prudent] In general I've been impressed by writing where heavy words are used sparingly, and only where they provide information a more conventional choice does not.

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Abe
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Abe » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:51 pm

This may be something everyone here already knows about. I have Microsoft Bookshelf 98 on my computer. I know it's old but it works for me. Whenever I see a word I'm not sure about, I can highlight it and click the Bookshelf icon called quick define, and a window will open with the definition and pronunciation of that word. Very helpful, especially for people with dyslexia.
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby The Wizard » Mon Mar 20, 2017 2:53 pm

new2bogle wrote:Read "The New Yorker"

Even the restaurant reviews are superbly written. I have also learned a great deal from the various articles. It's the only magazine I will read.

I said it first! :)
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=214242#p3289762

That being said, The Atlantic isn't half bad either...
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JDCarpenter
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby JDCarpenter » Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:03 pm

knpstr wrote:
simplesauce wrote:I've tried books, using Vocab apps on my phone, etc. I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better. What do you suggest I use to expand my vocabulary? Thank you.


While developing one's vocabulary is a nice goal (and you've been given good advice on how to expand it: read), don't be fooled into thinking that one sounds more intelligent simply by using more obscure words.

:beer


Several posters have said this, and I agree. It is very nice to read just about anything outside of technical fields and understand it. But, when writing or speaking, it is important to recognize that your target audience may not be as verbally adept as you believe.

Using $10 words when a dime-sized one would work better is an inherent hazard in practicing law, and likely in other areas as well.
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Epsilon Delta » Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:30 pm

Everybody has two volcabularies. Productive vocabulary is what you say or write. Receptive vocabulary is what you understand.

Reading material that is a stretch for you will increase your receptive vocabulary. This is a good thing because you will understand more people, and are less likely to be baffled by bs.

Improving productive vocabulary takes more work, and is not always a good thing because it can make you less comprehensible.

TerryDMillerMBA
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby TerryDMillerMBA » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:00 pm

WhyNotUs wrote:My dad kept a dictionary in our bathroom. I enjoyed learning a new word with every bowel movement.


:annoyed ---> Peristalsis ----> :D

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VictoriaF
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:25 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:Finally, I think that part of attaining your goal is furthered by increasing precision in your speech. You can be more precise by using a particular word, or an entire sentence, but fight against the popular trend to ever more vague language.


An excellent comment. I'd further suggest avoiding abbreviations, emoticons, and clichés. If something is exciting, amusing, or mildly embarrassing, state it explicitly instead of using LOL. If something is progressively complicated or time consuming, say so instead of referring to the rabbit hole.

Previous posters have recommended using a dictionary as you read and keeping word lists. I find it boring and consult a dictionary only when a word really piques my interest. By contrast, I use Google extensively when I write. For example, I have just looked up "piques" because I was inclined to write "peaks" and it did not seem right.

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knpstr
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby knpstr » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:53 pm

TerryDMillerMBA wrote:
WhyNotUs wrote:My dad kept a dictionary in our bathroom. I enjoyed learning a new word with every bowel movement.


:annoyed ---> Peristalsis ----> :D


borborygmos 8-)
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Angst
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Angst » Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:56 pm

Far be it from me to criteak. :happy

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dm200
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby dm200 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:06 pm

knpstr wrote:
TerryDMillerMBA wrote:
WhyNotUs wrote:My dad kept a dictionary in our bathroom. I enjoyed learning a new word with every bowel movement.

:annoyed ---> Peristalsis ----> :D

borborygmos 8-)


Yes - excellent idea.

Constipation.
Diarrhea.
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dm200
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby dm200 » Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:14 pm

There are some web sites on (allegedly) common errors of speech.

I just learned one. President Obama was severely criticized for using the word "enormity" to wrongly mean "enormous", when it is supposed to mean
(the enormity of)
the great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong:
"a thorough search disclosed the full enormity of the crime"
a grave crime or sin:
"the enormities of the regime"
synonyms: wickedness · evil · vileness · baseness · depravity · outrageousness · [more]


A book on words that (for most speakers) sound the same, but have different meanings:
meet and meat
beet and beat
lead and led
feet and feat
Mary, marry and merry
ate and eight

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Fallible » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:17 pm

simplesauce wrote:I've tried books, using Vocab apps on my phone, etc. I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better. What do you suggest I use to expand my vocabulary? Thank you.


Obviously, you can read more and should, everything suggested on this thread and anything else that interests you. But since you are still not where you want to be despite already reading books and using apps, are you not always remembering new words or their meanings for later use? If that might be the case, then studying words rather than just looking up their definitions could help. That includes various uses in phrases, the tenses, the derivatives, origins, synonyms, antonyms, history, etc. The more you know about a word, the more likely you'll remember it and know when and how to use it.

One more word about words from one of the greatest writers, E.B. White: "Avoid fancy words. Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word where there is a ten-center handy, ready and able." It's from his chapter on "An Approach to Style," in the ever popular book, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby TomatoTomahto » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:50 am

Another thing to do is to learn the differences between words that are commonly misused:
Affect and effect
Lose and loose (shudder! this is a loosing battle on social media :D )
Less and fewer
There, their, and they're (you'd be surprised how often spell-check changes what you type into gibberish)
Myself! This is a word that is used to sound smart, but usually has the opposite effect. Years ago, a co-worker was asked where Joe's cubicle was, and he replied, pointing, "he sits over there, by myself." You'd need a Möbius strip to diagram that sentence.
Use of the "grocer's apostrophe"

I probably should cut people more slack, but it chips away at my impression of people when they make those common errors, even if it's only on Facebook. It takes work to look beyond those errors and see that the writer has a well-formed thought, but it's worth the effort, otherwise you miss out. For example, there's a prolific poster on College Confidential who uses the grocer's apostrophe repeatedly, but he really knows his stuff; I owe it to myself to look past his grammar and read for content.

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby fishboat » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:54 am

simplesauce wrote:...I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better.


Learning to express yourself better is a laudable goal, however using "..more words to sound more intelligent.." won't get you there. You'll miss proper usage often enough that people will pick up your reach is exceeding your grasp. Trying to sound more intelligent will result in you being perceived as less intelligent.

What you're seeking flows from being more intelligent. Take two kids at 25 years old. One has been to college and received a 4 year degree with, hopefully, at least a 3.0 average. The other didn't attend college. Odds are the former will be more well-spoken than the latter. Why? The former was heavily immersed in language and knowledge, in some topic of interest, for a long period of time..long enough to change their view of the world. The latter has grown, but not terribly far outside their normal routine, nor in an environment where knowledge and concise language are the 'currency' day in and day out..for years...

How do I know?..been there..done that. I delayed attending college for 10 years after high school and spent the rest of my career in science, engineering, and mathematics.

Don't strive to be a poser..be the real thing.

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Barefootgirl » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:58 am

Read, read, read - reading material of increasing complexity of thought.

Side note for fun - voracious reading as a young child led to me winning my state's annual spelling bee contest, youngest winner in history (as of that time)- age 11. I owe what I am to reading lol.
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby randomguy » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:14 am

Epsilon Delta wrote:Everybody has two volcabularies. Productive vocabulary is what you say or write. Receptive vocabulary is what you understand.

Reading material that is a stretch for you will increase your receptive vocabulary. This is a good thing because you will understand more people, and are less likely to be baffled by bs.

Improving productive vocabulary takes more work, and is not always a good thing because it can make you less comprehensible.


Large vocabularies are for impressing people. Good grammar and precise usage of words is much better if you are just trying to communicate and come across as intelligent.

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dm200
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby dm200 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:21 am

Large vocabularies are for impressing people. Good grammar and precise usage of words is much better if you are just trying to communicate and come across as intelligent.


Good point. In my opinion, though, a large vocabulary can help a lot in understanding what you read and hear. In speaking and writing, you want to be cautious in using too many words that most people do not understand (UNLESS you want to confuse them :) )

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:32 pm

TomatoTomahto wrote:...
Use of the "grocer's apostrophe"
...

Look out! Here comes an s!
PJW

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Clever_Username
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Clever_Username » Tue Mar 21, 2017 2:04 pm

randomguy wrote:
Epsilon Delta wrote:Everybody has two volcabularies. Productive vocabulary is what you say or write. Receptive vocabulary is what you understand.

Reading material that is a stretch for you will increase your receptive vocabulary. This is a good thing because you will understand more people, and are less likely to be baffled by bs.

Improving productive vocabulary takes more work, and is not always a good thing because it can make you less comprehensible.


Large vocabularies are for impressing people. Good grammar and precise usage of words is much better if you are just trying to communicate and come across as intelligent.


Sometimes a large word is perfectly cromulent for the situation.
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Fallible » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:30 pm

Clever_Username wrote:
randomguy wrote:
Epsilon Delta wrote:Everybody has two volcabularies. Productive vocabulary is what you say or write. Receptive vocabulary is what you understand.

Reading material that is a stretch for you will increase your receptive vocabulary. This is a good thing because you will understand more people, and are less likely to be baffled by bs.

Improving productive vocabulary takes more work, and is not always a good thing because it can make you less comprehensible.


Large vocabularies are for impressing people. Good grammar and precise usage of words is much better if you are just trying to communicate and come across as intelligent.


Sometimes a large word is perfectly cromulent for the situation.

But only if it embiggens the meaning.
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dm200
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby dm200 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:40 pm

For a change of pace:

Why do we park in a driveway and drive on a parkway?
Why is it called "rush hour" when your car barely moves?
If a 7-eleven is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why are there locks on the doors?
If it's a circular drive, how do you get out?
How do "Don't Walk on the Grass" signs get there?
Why does sour cream have a "use by" date?
If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?
If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?
If we find life on Mars, will it taste like chicken?
When a bug hits your windshield, what determines the color of the spatter?
If it was only a three hour tour, why did Gilligan, the Skipper and everyone else, have all that stuff?
A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station . . .
If Fed ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?
If quitters never win, and winners never quit, what fool came up with "Quit while you're ahead"?
Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?
What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?
I was thinking that women should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans.
I thought about how mothers feed their babies with little tiny spoons and forks, so I wonder what Chinese mothers use. Perhaps toothpicks?
Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do . . . write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen could look for them while they delivered the mail?
Should you ever have plastic surgery from a doctor whose office is full of portraits by Picasso?
If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?

ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?
Can you yell "Movie!" in a crowded fire station?
What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby GoldenFinch » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:58 pm

Reading is key. Also, I have found being raised by professors will improve your vocabulary. If that isn't (or wasn't) an option, you can always hang around with professors.

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Phineas J. Whoopee
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:35 pm

dm200 wrote:For a change of pace:
...

Yup. Let's go slow. Real slow.

What's another word for thesaurus?

PJW

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VictoriaF
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:02 pm

fishboat wrote:
simplesauce wrote:...I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better.


Learning to express yourself better is a laudable goal, however using "..more words to sound more intelligent.." won't get you there. You'll miss proper usage often enough that people will pick up your reach is exceeding your grasp. Trying to sound more intelligent will result in you being perceived as less intelligent.

What you're seeking flows from being more intelligent.


I agree.

fishboat wrote:[Take two kids at 25 years old. One has been to college and received a 4 year degree with, hopefully, at least a 3.0 average. The other didn't attend college. Odds are the former will be more well-spoken than the latter. Why? The former was heavily immersed in language and knowledge, in some topic of interest, for a long period of time..long enough to change their view of the world. The latter has grown, but not terribly far outside their normal routine, nor in an environment where knowledge and concise language are the 'currency' day in and day out..for years...

How do I know?..been there..done that. I delayed attending college for 10 years after high school and spent the rest of my career in science, engineering, and mathematics.


What were you doing during the 10 years after high school? Did you read? Did you write?

Curious,
Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

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dm200
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby dm200 » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:11 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:
dm200 wrote:For a change of pace:
...

Yup. Let's go slow. Real slow.
What's another word for thesaurus?
PJW


I think it some kind of dinosaur?

fishboat
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby fishboat » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:22 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
fishboat wrote:
simplesauce wrote:...I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better.


Learning to express yourself better is a laudable goal, however using "..more words to sound more intelligent.." won't get you there. You'll miss proper usage often enough that people will pick up your reach is exceeding your grasp. Trying to sound more intelligent will result in you being perceived as less intelligent.

What you're seeking flows from being more intelligent.


I agree.

fishboat wrote:[Take two kids at 25 years old. One has been to college and received a 4 year degree with, hopefully, at least a 3.0 average. The other didn't attend college. Odds are the former will be more well-spoken than the latter. Why? The former was heavily immersed in language and knowledge, in some topic of interest, for a long period of time..long enough to change their view of the world. The latter has grown, but not terribly far outside their normal routine, nor in an environment where knowledge and concise language are the 'currency' day in and day out..for years...

How do I know?..been there..done that. I delayed attending college for 10 years after high school and spent the rest of my career in science, engineering, and mathematics.


What were you doing during the 10 years after high school? Did you read? Did you write?

Curious,
Victoria


Right out of high school I got a job at Pabst Brewery at a wage that matched the auto workers, year after year. My family didn't have money for college & I didn't see a need for it, at the time. I left Pabst when it started to close down in '83, at $17/hr. Good money back then. Good money for some today. I worked 3rd shift driving fork truck and had lots of time to read, and read I did. As a rule, I never read fiction & never have up until a few years ago. I entered college, flat broke(I blew every dollar I made..though had lots of fun), in '84. The recession of '83 ensured there were few jobs for anyone with my meager skillset. If I was going to go hungry, I figured at least college had a definite end to being hungry, rather than struggling my entire life.

I enjoy writing, though I don't write as much as I once did.

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Mar 21, 2017 8:59 pm

fishboat wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
fishboat wrote:Take two kids at 25 years old. One has been to college and received a 4 year degree with, hopefully, at least a 3.0 average. The other didn't attend college. Odds are the former will be more well-spoken than the latter. Why? The former was heavily immersed in language and knowledge, in some topic of interest, for a long period of time..long enough to change their view of the world. The latter has grown, but not terribly far outside their normal routine, nor in an environment where knowledge and concise language are the 'currency' day in and day out..for years...

How do I know?..been there..done that. I delayed attending college for 10 years after high school and spent the rest of my career in science, engineering, and mathematics.


What were you doing during the 10 years after high school? Did you read? Did you write?

Curious,
Victoria


Right out of high school I got a job at Pabst Brewery at a wage that matched the auto workers, year after year. My family didn't have money for college & I didn't see a need for it, at the time. I left Pabst when it started to close down in '83, at $17/hr. Good money back then. Good money for some today. I worked 3rd shift driving fork truck and had lots of time to read, and read I did. As a rule, I never read fiction & never have up until a few years ago. I entered college, flat broke(I blew every dollar I made..though had lots of fun), in '84. The recession of '83 ensured there were few jobs for anyone with my meager skillset. If I was going to go hungry, I figured at least college had a definite end to being hungry, rather than struggling my entire life.

I enjoy writing, though I don't write as much as I once did.


If you were reading non-fiction for 10 years, your reading and writing level may have been higher than that of some college graduates. $17/hr was an excellent wage at the time. I was making a half of that as an HVAC drafts(wo)man with BSME before I went to grad school in '86.

Victoria
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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby Zott » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:15 pm

I think reading lots of 19th and early 20th century English and American literature has helped me immensely. Not just the vocabulary, but sentence structure, idioms and creating a narrative as well.

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Re: Best way to expand my vocabulary?

Postby VaR » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:16 pm

simplesauce wrote:I've tried books, using Vocab apps on my phone, etc. I would like to know more words to sound more intelligent and express myself better. What do you suggest I use to expand my vocabulary? Thank you.

I'm with the previous posters who say that it's important to distinguish between a receptive vocabulary and a productive vocabulary. I also think you can't go wrong by starting with increasing your receptive vocabulary. For this aspect, there's nothing like reading. But I suggest finding material that you actually like to read. If you are a prodigious reader and scrupulously look up every word you don't understand, you will find your receptive vocabulary growing. A useful exercise is to speculate on why the author chose that word rather than a simpler alternative. If the writing is good, the author will have chosen the word because it was the simplest one that conveyed precisely the nuanced meaning that the author wanted to convey to the reader. I think it is this, the desire to convey precise meaning, that provides the impetus to increase one's productive vocabulary.


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