A strong vocabulary in graduate school will help you with your essays, your professional interviews, and your networking skills! No one likes a self-conscious word-dropper, but you don’t have to be William F. Buckley to impress with your writing and speaking skills. Here are a few tips you can utilize to build vocabulary knowledge and gain more confidence in grad school!
Refresh your grammar skills. Remember learning the fine points of grammar in elementary and middle school? Me neither. Spend some time with a “fun” grammar review book like Writer’s Express or English Grammar for Dummies. This will be a great resource to have when you need to review the uses of a semicolon or recall just what is an “Oxford comma.”
Get your news from better sources. While CNN, FOX, and other cable news networks are hugely popular, the anchors generally don’t use more than a limited Reader’s Digest selection of words. More challenging periodical such as The Economist are generally better than popular magazines like Newsweek in terms of difficulty level. Set a regular schedule for your reading and stick to it. Even 20 minutes a day over coffee and breakfast will help! And you’ll not only be learning new vocab, but you’ll become fluent in current events—you’ll never be at a loss for conversation at a mixer again!
Make a vocab journal that looks like a thesaurus. Write down any words you don’t know as you encounter them, but instead of a huge notebook filled with tedious definitions, create a thesaurus. It’s much easier to memorize synonyms than full definitions. Make each page of a notebook with a generic heading such as “happy” or “mean.” When you encounter a word, put it on the page whose generic word it most closely matches. You get more “bang for your buck” by memorizing in this way. For example, words like “pusillanimous” and “poltroonish” might go on the “shy” page.