As adults, understandably we get a little lazy about learning new words. We don't often have reason to learn more words than the everyday ones we use at home, or at work, or with friends, etc.

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

Language acquisition isn’t going to happen by accident. Most adults learn between 25 and 50 new words in a year – if that. To give yourself the best chance of learning as much vocabulary as possible, you need to set yourself some targets.

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...

Be curious about the world around you. What would you like to learn about that so far has been outside your sphere? Music theory, artists and their work, the history of Greece, the philosophy of Kant. Whatever peaks your interest, choose a topic and set out to learn about it.

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

When you are reading and you come across a word you don’t know, the common choice is to ignore that word, skip over it and make a guess at what it must mean based on the context around it.

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

Learn the roots of the words. If you know that a “cortex” is a shell or the outer skin, then when you are confronted by a word like “decorticate”, you can make a guess that it means to remove (“de-“) the shell. Learning the roots of words can help you make educated guesses at the meanings and will help you build your vocabulary much faster.

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".

As a side note, if you have read this far through this section and are still unsure what etymology means, shame on you for not finding out!
Building your vocabulary is a great language skill which will help you be better at essay writing. Your impressive use of language will make your reader feel you have a good command of the facts too. It takes time, but it’s an investment worth making.

If you want further help with your essay writing skills, why not read more about our Essay Writing Service?