Essay writing skills: how to build your vocabulary
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
But when you’re essay writing on a regular basis, you need to be able to express yourself clearly and accurately. And this skill will be easier for you if you have a great stock of learned vocabulary. Here are some top tips to help grow yours.
Setting a goal will help you achieve more
This may sound unnecessary, but remember the reason why knowing more words will benefit you. The more words you know, the more eloquently you'll be able to articulate your arguments in your essay writing. And the better you present your arguments, the higher grades you're likely to score.
So aim to learn around 10 new words every week. It doesn't take a genius to work out that if you kept this up, you'd learn over 500 words by this time next year. That'll give you a LOT of variation in your writing!
Read, read, read, read...
Read everything you can get your hands on. In addition to the targeted research of a topic, make a general decision to read more overall. Also, practice critical reading when you read academic sources.
New words in research
If you want to improve your vocabulary, you have to change this habit. When you see a new word look it up in a dictionary.
As you read in preparation for your essays, be alert to new words. It is so easy to ignore them – both the ones we read and the ones we hear. Whatever the context, don’t ignore these words. If you're not at your desk, use your phone to make a note of a new word, so that you can go back later to find out the definition.
Etymology – learning the origin of words will encourage your natural vocabulary skill
There are several ways you can study the etymology of words.
First, you can buy or loan from your library a good etymological dictionary. Or use this free, well-researched online dictionary that’s specifically dedicated to etymology.
As discussed above, understanding the roots of words - that is, the parts of words in their most simplest form – will often help you figure out a word you don't know the meaning of immediately. So, as you're learning new words, try to break them down and look for how they've been formed. For example:
Biology – this is formed from 'bio', taken from the Greek word 'bios' meaning "life"; and 'logia', the Greek word for "study of".
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